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Lapid: Hamas, PIJ terrorists will not be freed (JERUSALEM NEWSWIRE) By Jerusalem Newswire Editorial Staff 07/08/03) Source: http://www.jnewswire.com/news_archive/03/07/030708_lapid.asp
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Wrangling over the release of Palestinian security prisoners from Israeli jails continued to top the political agenda Monday as Israeli Justice Minister Tommy Lapid and PA Minister for Prisoner Affairs Hisham Abd al-Razeq met in Jerusalem.
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Lapid insisted that members of the Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror groups would not be released from prison as part of any "goodwill gesture" in the near future, despite the Palestinian´s warning that this position could doom the Road Map.
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"When [Hamas official Abdel Aziz] Rantisi goes on television and says after the hudna in three months they will continue the war to wipe out Jewish state, it is not exactly smart to demand of us to release soldiers to annihilate the Jewish state," Lapid told Army Radio after the meeting.
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Israel did agree to free some 300-400 Palestinian prisoners in the coming days, but set strict criteria for determining which detainees would be eligible for release.
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According to a cabinet decision Sunday, Palestinians who participated in or helped plan the murder of Jews, or those belonging to Hamas and PIJ would not be released.
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Abd al-Razeq repeated the Palestinian demand that all 6,000 prisoners being held by Israel be set free, and echoed the PA´s severe disapproval over Israel´s offering of only a few hundred.
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The Palestinian suggested to reporters after the meeting that if Israel does not cooperate in this area, there is little chance of achieving lasting peace.
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Furthermore, Israel´s refusal to include Hamas and PIJ terrorists in any prisoner release is hampering Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas´ ability to restore calm, according to Abd al-Razeq.
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Israeli officials hinted Tuesday that a limited number of Hamas and PIJ prisoners may be released in order to prevent those groups from renewing large-scale terror attacks against Israelis.
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No prisoners would be released, however, before Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Abbas meet later in the week, according to media reports.
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Abbas and PA have made the prisoner issue their top priority over the past week, and have indicated they would not move forward on their Road Map obligations unless their demands are met.
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The release of Palestinian security prisoners is not mentioned in Road Map. (Copyright 2002-2003 Jerusalem Newswire. 07/08/03)
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