Israel to release 26 Palestinian prisoners

Israel approves the release of a third group of Palestinian prisoners as part of U.S.-brokered peace talks

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Israel is set to release 26 Palestinian prisoners as early as Monday, in a move part of a U.S.-brokered deal that restarted peace talks this year.

Israel released the list late Saturday. All were convicted in connection to the killing of Israelis and relatives of the victims have been protesting against the release.

“The release of 26 Palestinian prisoners was authorized this evening," a statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Saturday.

The prisoners were due to be freed within “at least 48 hours" after their names were published.

Israel had agreed to free a total of 104 Palestinian prisoners during its peace talks with Palestinian authorities. 52 prisoners have already been released last August and October.

After the upcoming release of the 26 prisoners, the remaining inmates will be freed in March 2014.

The previous releases were accompanied by Israeli announcements of new settlement constructions. The news led to international condemnation and statements from Palestinian officials saying that the settlements plan to destroy the peace process.

Netanyahu had initially agreed to appeals made by the United States and the European Union delay an announcement of news construction, but the Prime Minister changed his mind due to pressure from his coalition partners who saw that a delay projected “a signal of weakness,” reported Israeli daily Maariv.

Netanyahu is now expected to announce new construction plans for 1,400 homes in West Bank settlements next week. This includes areas of annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

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