Israel Considers Freeing Hamas, Jihad Prisoners

(Ha'aretz) - Aluf Benn, Amos Harel, Arnon Regular, and Nathan Guttman Between 40 to 60 Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists are now included on the list of some 400 Palestinian prisoners Israel is considering releasing, government sources said Thursday. The Hamas prisoners to be released will be those who were active in the civilian services section and not the military wing. Prime Minister Sharon is due to meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas early next week. Abbas will meet with President Bush in Washington on July 25, and Sharon is to meet with Bush on July 29. Following the meeting with Abbas, Sharon is to begin the prisoner releases. But government sources said they might be delayed until Abbas returns from Washington, so the prisoners don't appear to be delivered to Arafat. Practically speaking, there are questions about whether Abbas can actually implement the steps he has announced he wants to take, including accepting security responsibility for more Palestinian cities in the West Bank. The Preventive Security force and the civilian police were supposed to be under Abbas's command in the West Bank, as they are in Gaza, but in effect, Arafat controls them. Arafat also seems to control the agenda for the Palestinian negotiations with Israel and the U.S. The Palestinians, who received $20 million in special aid this week from the Americans, will be asking for U.S. help in packaging a $450 million aid grant from donor countries to cover PA deficits and help create jobs. If that aid goes through, the Palestinians will be seeking a $1 billion package for a host of rehabilitation, construction, and social service projects.

2003-07-18 00:00:00

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