Will Israel restore Israeli prisoners from Gaza

Israel: 250 Palestinian prisoners released

At a crisis meeting, Palestinian President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert discussed the escalating violence in the Gaza Strip. Israel assures the release of prisoners and briefly opens the border for aid.

Following the renewed escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met in Jerusalem on Monday for a crisis discussion. Olmert announced the release of 250 Palestinian prisoners in December, as confirmed by representatives of both sides.

The Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said Abbas had called for the release of Palestinian prisoners during the conversation. Olmert then said that his government had decided to release 250 prisoners in early December. An Israeli government official specified that the promised releases should take place on the occasion of the Muslim festival of sacrifices, which begins on December 7th or 8th.

The peace treaty became more and more fragile

Abbas had announced that he would work to restore calm in the Gaza Strip. The ceasefire signed in June between the ruling organization Hamas and Israel, which expires in December, has recently become increasingly fragile. According to Israeli census, more than 170 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel in the past two weeks. During the same period, 15 Palestinians were killed in Israeli military actions.

According to the Israeli police, militant Palestinians again fired six rockets on Israeli territory on Monday. The rockets hit open land in the south of the country and nobody was injured.

Hamas condemns meetings

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum immediately condemned the meeting between Abbas and Olmert. He accused them of simply coordinating the destruction of Hamas. Abbas has "given up all his national obligations to his people" and "submitted" to Israel and the United States.

Abbas' authority is limited to parts of the West Bank. Hamas, classified as terrorist by the US and the EU, won the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January 2006 with a large majority. After the power struggle in the summer of 2007, Hamas gained sole control of the Gaza Strip, Abbas then dissolved the unity government headed by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and set up an emergency cabinet under Salam Fayyad in the West Bank.

Israel opens border for aid supplies

Shortly before the meeting between Olmert and Abbas, Israel opened a border crossing into the cordoned-off Gaza Strip for aid deliveries for the first time in two weeks and, according to a spokesman for the Defense Ministry in Jerusalem, let around 30 trucks through.

The Palestinian government, meanwhile, is demanding that the European Union restrict the import of products from the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The peace process threatens to collapse with the expansion of the settlements, Prime Minister Fayyad said in Ramallah on Monday. The Palestinians expect the EU to ban imports from the settlements altogether or to impose tariffs on them. The EU should be reminded that the expansion of the settlements violates international law.

(Ag.)