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Israel Could Free 26 Palestinian Prisoners Next Week

A mother of a Palestinian who has been held prisoner by Israel for 22 years, kisses his picture in Gaza City in this July 28, 2013, file photo.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat says Israel will free the first of four groups of long-held Palestinian prisoners next week as part of the deal to resume the peace talks for the first time in three years.

Erakat said in a statement that 26 men will be released August 13.

Israeli negotiator, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, has said the release will be carried out only if the Palestinians prove to be a serious partner in the negotiations.

Negotiations began in Washington last week and will continue in the Middle East next week.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu overcame strong opposition in his Cabinet to approve the Palestinian prisoner release.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said Israel must free long-held prisoners in order for negotiations to proceed. Israeli media have said the prisoners include Palestinians convicted of decades-old deadly attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces.

The prisoner release drew opposition from ultranationalist ministers who said it would be a reward for "terrorism." According to Israeli media reports, Netanyahu told his ministers the prisoner decision was "difficult" for him and the families of those killed, but also necessary to renew the peace process.

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