Israel released dozens of jailed Palestinians as a goodwill gesture toward the Mahmoud Abbas government.
Fifty-seven prisoners, most of them from the Palestinian Authority president’s Fatah faction, were bused out to the West Bank on Monday. Jailed for involvement in terrorist attacks that did not cause serious casualties, they were freed early by the Olmert government in an effort to shore up Abbas in his power struggle with Hamas.
Another 29 inmates from the Gaza Strip had been slated for release, but they were held back amid what Israel’s Prisons Service described as logistical problems.
According to Army Radio, President Shimon Peres refused at the last minute to sign pardons for the Gazan prisoners. Peres’ office declined comment on the report.