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August 13, 2013

Israel Frees Prisoners Before Peace Talks

by VOA News

Israel has freed 26 long-held Palestinian prisoners as a gesture, hours before peace talks resume.

The prisoners were loaded onto buses late Tuesday and brought home to the West Bank and Gaza.  Jubilant relatives and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hailed them as heroes.

Palestinian protesters threw rocks at the border prison where the inmates were held.  Israeli police responded with stun grenades and tear gas.  There is no word on injuries.

Many of the Palestinians were jailed in the 1980s and 90s for killing Israelis and suspected Palestinian collaborators.

Families of some of the victims failed to convince the Israeli Supreme Court to stop the release.  They say freeing them is a reward for terrorism.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators meet in Jerusalem Wednesday to resume peace talks that began last month in Washington after a three-year lull.

The Israeli government agreed to free a total of 104 Palestinian prisoners in stages, depending on the progress of the talks.

Also Tuesday, Israel announced it is moving forward with plans to build 900 new apartments in the Gilo neighborhood in East Jerusalem.  This comes days after the government gave final approval for 1,200 new homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The Palestinians want these areas for a future state.  They accuse the Israelis of trying to undermine the peace talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States regards all Israeli settlements as illegitimate, but urges the Palestinians "not to react adversely" to the latest announcements.

An Israeli government spokesman says the new homes will be in areas that Israel likely will keep in any peace deal.