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Israel releases 26 Palestinian prisoners: Palestinian official

Published on Dec 31, 2013 9:04 AM
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Friends and family members of the 26 Palestinian prisoners who are expected to be released on Dec 30, 2013 celebrate their imminent release from Israeli jail in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Israel released the 26 Palestinian prisoners early on Tuesday, a Palestinian official told AFP. -- PHOTO: AFP

OFER PRISON, Palestinian Territories (AFP) - Israel released early Tuesday 26 Palestinian prisoners, a Palestinian official told AFP, in accordance with commitments made to revive US-brokered peace talks.

"Two vans carrying (18) prisoners left Ofer prison and were headed to Ramallah" in the West Bank, the official said, adding that three other prisoners were being released to the Gaza Strip and five others to east Jerusalem.

Tuesday's release was the third stage of the freeing of 104 inmates that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu committed to let go in four stages, when the peace talks were renewed in July.

It came after an Israeli court rejected a last-minute appeal by victims' families, as US Secretary of State John Kerry was preparing to travel to the region in a bid to boost faltering peace talks with Israelis and Palestinians, AFP correspondents in Ramallah, Gaza and east Jerusalem reported the freed prisoners had reached their destinations just before 2.30am (8.30am Singapore time).