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Brass bristles at Gazan prisoner release

Israel’s top general came out against the planned release of some Palestinian prisoners from Gaza.

Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the armed forces chief, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that he opposes the Olmert government’s inclusion of 16 Gazans among the 441 security prisoners slated to go free this week as a goodwill gesture toward Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Though all the prisoners on the roster are from Abbas’ Fatah faction and none was jailed for deadly terrorist attacks, Ashkenazi said it would be inappropriate to return prisoners to Gaza while Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier, is still being held by Hamas-led gunmen there.

Government officials had no immediate comment.

Asked about the chances of Palestinians reverting to full-scale attacks on Israel should next week’s Annapolis conference between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas fail, Ashkenazi said there may be a desire for violence but this is tampered by the difficulties of life in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

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