Weizman Blocks Release of Palestinian Prisoners

Implementation of one portion of the Interim Agreement for expanding Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank has been blocked by Israeli President Ezer Weizman.

The agreement, which calls for the phased release of most Palestinians in Israeli jails, and for the immediate release of all female prisoners, ran into a snag this week when Weizman said he would refuse to shorten the sentences of two of the 27 female prisoners scheduled for release.

Weizman, who has been pondering the release issue for at least two weeks, said Sunday that he would adhere to an earlier pledge not to let any prisoner with Israeli blood on his or her hands go free.

Two other female prisoners were refused release this week by Maj. Gen. Ilan Biran, the commander in charge of an area that includes the West Bank.

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat that the Israeli government was unable to override Weizman’s decision.

Release of the female prisoners had been scheduled for Sunday.

But only one female prisoner was released Sunday. She had been sentenced to seven years in jail for attempting to stab an Israeli soldier.

Another 22 female prisoners vowed to stay in jail until all 27 were released. The 22 women also have refused to sign a pledge to refrain from terrorism.

Their release from prison was contingent upon their signing the anti-terrorism pledge.

Some 1,000 male prisoners were scheduled to be released Tuesday under the terms of the Interim Agreement.

NEXT STORY