A prisoner release is giving a boost to the Middle East peace process.

Palestinian prisoners released by Israel got a heroes' welcome when they returned home to the West Bank. They flashed the victory sign and waved Palestinian flags as they were greeted by jubilant relatives.

Israel released a total of 224 Palestinian prisoners, saying it is a goodwill gesture to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.  Israeli spokesman Mark Regev said,
"The idea of this release is to bolster moderate Palestinian leadership.  We understand the importance of the prisoner issue for Palestinian society."

President Abbas greeted the prisoners at Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah.  He welcomed their release, but said it is not enough.

He said happiness would not be complete until all of the 11,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are freed, and he promised to work for their release.

Israel wants to bolster Mr. Abbas, who is locked in a power struggle with the violent Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.  But many Israelis oppose the prisoner releases.  Critics say the prisoners are terrorists who belong in jail.