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New calls to free Barghouti

An Israeli official called for a jailed Palestinian militia leader to be released in a bid to boost Mahmoud Abbas.Environment Minister Gideon Ezra said Tuesday that were Marwan Barghouti to go free, it would strengthen his Fatah faction and the Palestinian Authority president in the face of Hamas.”Abu Mazen lacks reinforcement,” Ezra, a former deputy chief of the Shin Bet security service, told Israel Radio, using Abbas’ popular name. “If the right people happen to be in prison, they should be released.”Barghouti is serving five life sentences for masterminding terrorist attacks by the Al-Aksa Brigades. Ezra has called for his release in the past, but such proposals have received extra urgency since Hamas Islamists routed Fatah in the Gaza Strip, raising questions about the future of the West Bank.