RELEASE ALL 11,000 PRISONERS – demands Palestine National Authority

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The Palestine National Authority (PNA) said yesterday Israel’s promised release of 400 Palestinian prisoners was ‘not enough’.

Palestinian Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Hasan Abu-Libda, said more than 11,000 Palestinians are behind Israeli bars and they should be set free.`

Abu-Libda said the Israeli decision was a unilateral step without prior coordination with the Palestinian side, adding that it was made outside Sharm el-Sheikh understandings.`

Similarly, the Palestinian Minister for Prisoners’ Affairs Sufian Abu Zaydeh voiced dissatisfaction.

He said: ‘This one-sided step does not meet the minimum of our demands.’

Those named for release have completed two thirds of their sentences.

But, Zaydeh added: ‘Our priority is to release young prisoners, the women, the elderly, the sick and political leaders like (MP) Marwan Barghouthi,’ who was convicted of five life terms.’

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat also said the decision to release just 400 prisoners was ‘not enough.’

The Israeli Prisons Authority has posted on its Internet web site, the names of the 400 Palestinian detainees whose release the Israeli cabinet on Sunday voted 18-3 to approve.

The Israeli cabinet set no date for their release, though Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said they will be freed in about a week.

Sharon justified the cabinet’s decision as a recognition of the need to support Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas ‘and those Palestinians in competition with Hamas, and to keep his promises made at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit on February 8th,’ Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz said, in a reference to the two leaders’ peace summit.

Some 35 members of Fatah, Hamas and other anti-occupation organisations who have served two-thirds of their terms have been notified of their impending release and have been transferred from the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) detention centre of Ofer, west of Ramallah in the West Bank, to the Ketziot prison in the Negev Desert in southern Israel where the release process will be completed.

More than 11,000 Palestinians are in IOF jails and their numbers are rising on a daily basis.

A joint Palestinian Israeli committee set up according to the Abbas-Sharon ‘understandings’ in Sharm el-Sheikh to agree on criteria for the release of detainees has only met once, and so far failed in its mission.

Meanwhile, the IOF continue their detention spree and have detained 21 more Palestinians during the past week and more than 100, including 32 in Hebron alone, during May.