Israel releases 198 Palestinian prisoners

Israel released 198 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture to Mahmoud Abbas.

The release Monday came just hours before U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to land in Israel for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

The Palestinians were released to Palestinian Authority custody at the Betuniya crossing north of Jerusalem near Ramallah. They were greeted as heroes by crowds of relatives and Fatah members in Ramallah.

“I promise we won’t rest until we bring about the release of all the prisoners,” Abbas, the P.A. president, said during a rally held at the Mukata compound in honor of the freed prisoners.

Two prisoners with “blood on their hands” – those who had been directly responsible for the deaths of Israelis – were released. One was Said al-Atabeh, 57, who had been in Israeli prisons since 1977 and was the longest-serving prisoner.

Before their release the prisoners signed waivers promising not to engage in terrorist activity again.

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