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Cabinet decides to free 900 Palestinian prisoners (JERUSALEM POST) By KHALED ABU TOAMEH AND JPOST STAFF 02/03/05)Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1107400719373 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
The seven-member-security cabinet met Thursday to talk about the measures expected to be discussed at next week´s summit in Sharm e- Sheikh.

The seven-member-security cabinet met Thursday to talk about the measures expected to be discussed at next week´s summit in Sharm e- Sheikh.

At the special ministerial consultation at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, it was decided to approve the security establishment recommendations regarding the draft security understandings that had been reached with representatives of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

One of the recommendations approved includes the release of Palestinian prisoners. The exact number of Palestinian prisoners to be released is a point of contention between the two sides.

The Shin Bet submitted a list of 500 Palestinian prisoners it recommends for release. All of the prisoners on the list meet criteria previously set forth for prisoner releases, and none "have blood on their hands."

The Palestinians are hoping for the release of 1,000 prisoners.

After a fierce debate about the release of prisoners "with blood on their hands," the committee settled on an immediate release of the 500 prisoners on Shin Bet´s list after the summit in Egypt on Tuesday, and a subsequent release of another 400 prisoners in three months.

It was agreed, though, that Marwan Barghouti will not be released.

Israel also declared the gradual transfer of security control to the PA of the West Bank cities of Jericho, Bethlehem, Tulkarm, Kalkilya and Ramallah.

Jericho will be the first Palestinian city turned over to Palestinian security control, while Ramallah will be the last.

Other steps Israel announced include an agreement to stop hunting fugitives, provided that they sign a pledge to halt attacks and hand over weapons.

The military may also remove some West Bank roadblocks and open the Karni cargo crossing between Gaza and Israel. Karni, Gaza´s lifeline, was closed last month, after terrorists killed six Israelis.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz emphasized that all the measures are reversible, however, apparently addressing concerns by hawkish ministers.

"We will make gestures, but this must be followed up by a clear Palestinian fulfillment of their commitments," another Israeli diplomatic official said. "The test will be one of performance."

PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei said, "The Palestinian leadership is very serious and is doing its utmost to reach an agreement on a mutual cease-fire."

He told reporters in Ramallah that under the current circumstances there is a chance to achieve real peace.

"The commanders of the Palestinian security forces met to discuss assuming control of these [five West Bank] cities. We hope the summit will lead to an agreement on a withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders."

Qurei also expressed hope that the Palestinian airport in the southern Gaza Strip would be reopened shortly. He pointed out that the PA has reached an agreement with Israel on completing the construction of the first Palestinian seaport in the Gaza Strip.

Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres too seemed optimistic. In an interview with Army Radio, he said that there is a possibility of declaring "an end to the Intifada. In the past few years, Arafat – I don´t know if he initiated terror activities, but he certainly didn´t prevent them. This time, there is a Palestinian leader who is really trying to prevent them. It´s a different situation."

Participants in the cabinet meeting included Prime Minster Sharon, Vice Prime Ministers Olmert and Peres, as well as Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and Minister Haim Ramon.

They were briefed by IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon, OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aharon Zeevi Farkash, ISA Director Avi Dichter, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.- Gen. Yosef Mishlav, National Security Council Chairman Giora Eiland and other senior officials. With AP (© 1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 02/03/05)


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