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Israel completes release of 86 prisoners

Israel completed its planned release of 86 jailed Palestinians, a goodwill gesture toward Mahmoud Abbas’ administration.

Twenty-nine prisoners, mostly  from the Palestinian Authority president’s Fatah faction, were bused to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday after a 24-hour delay.

The holdup, media reports revealed, was due to a short-lived protest by armed forces chief Lt. -Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, who had argued that it was inappropriate to return prisoners to Gaza while Hamas continues to hold hostage and is incommunicado on an Israeli soldier, Sgt. Gilad Shalit.

On Monday, 56 Palestinian prisoners were returned to their homes in the West Bank. Israel had been scheduled to free 57 inmates from that territory but one was held back amid suspicions that he is aligned with Hamas.

Jailed for involvement in terrorist attacks that did not cause serious casualties, the 86 men were freed early by the Olmert government in an effort to shore up Abbas in his power struggle with Hamas.

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