The Palestinians have reacted angrily to reports that Israel has decided to exclude members of the militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad from its next release of Palestinian prisoners. Israel’s public radio said the government was sticking with a decision not to free the militants, after a series of discussions with Israeli security chiefs and Palestinian officials. The Palestinian Minister for Prisoners’ Affairs, Hisham Abdel-Razek, said the decision would “lead the political process to a dead-end”. It comes as Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas – also known as Abu Mazen – prepared to leave for a trip to Washington, where he is due to hold talks with US President George W Bush on Friday. The Palestinians have been pressing Israel to release members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, saying it would help them win public support for the US-brokered peace process, known as the roadmap. Both groups agreed to a three-month ceasefire on 29 June, but it was conditional on the release of an estimated 6,000 Palestinian prisoners. Full Story
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