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One-third of prisoners included in Israel-Palestine release deal have almost completed sentences

Palestinian human rights activists have pointed out that around one-third of the prisoners to be released by Israel today as part of the conditions for returning to negotiations would have completed their sentences soon in any case.

None of the prisoners in the first cohort, claims the Palestinian Prisoners' Centre, are from Jerusalem or inside Israel; at 60 per cent, most are from the Gaza Strip.

The Israelis agreed to release a total of 104 of the "old prisoners" who were arrested before the Oslo agreement was signed, including 19 from occupied Jerusalem and 14 from the Palestinian territories occupied in 1948. The release will take place in stages, with 26 being set free today.

Despite any quibbles about the list, the centre regards the release of any Palestinian prisoner from Israeli jails as an achievement for the Palestinian people and the resistance, "even if such a release programme should have taken place when Oslo was signed".

Calling on the Palestinian Authority to learn from past mistakes and not repeat them, the centre noted that the important issue of prisoners' release must not be neglected or left to the Israelis' whims. It warned that failure to complete the deal by releasing the remaining groups of prisoners could have major negative repercussions on the Palestinian people, especially the prisoners themselves and their families.

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