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Inner Cabinet Decides to Release 300 Shiite Prisoners Within 48 Hours, Rest to Go Within Weeks

The 10 member Inner Cabinet decided at a meeting today that 300 of the 735 Shiite Moslems held prisoner in the Atlit detention camp would be released within the next 48 hours, Israel Radio reported. There was no official statement by the Inner Cabinet which consists of five Labor and five Likud senior ministers.

Israel has insisted repeatedly over the past two weeks that its planned, phased release of the Shiites, captured in Lebanon, was in no way linked to the American hostage crisis in Beirut. According to officials here, the 300 Shiites would have been freed earlier had it not been for the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 on June 14 and the taking of hostages. The 39 American hostages were released yesterday.

It was assumed here that the remaining 450 Shiite detainees will be sent back to Lebanon during the next few weeks.

The official line in both Jerusalem and Washington is that no “deal” or promises were made to the hijackers for the release of the Americans. Premier Shimon Peres today praised President Reagan for his handling of the hostage crisis. He said he was very happy to learn that the Americans had left the “uncertain land” of Lebanon. He added that the dangers of terrorism would continue to be confronted in a determined manner.