Israel Frees Palestinians— Then Announces Construction

Jerusalem move sparks anger after prisoner release

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Oct 30, 2013 12:07 AM CDT

(Newser) – Israel announced new construction in east Jerusalem—an area the Palestinians demand for their future state—just hours after it freed a group of Palestinian prisoners as part of a deal to set in motion peace talks. The building is seen as an attempt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make up for the prisoner release, for which he has been sharply criticized at home. The 26 prisoners released at midnight were jailed for deadly attacks on Israelis and many had spent more than 20 years behind bars.

The prisoner release was part of an agreement brokered by John Kerry, which brought Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table after a five-year hiatus. In all, 104 Palestinian convicts are to be released in four rounds over the coming months.The announcement of new construction in east Jerusalem angered the Palestinians but it was not immediately clear if it would directly impact the talks, which are taking place behind closed doors and away from the public eye.

Released Palestinian prisoner Mohammed Sabbagh, center in white, is surrounded by militants as he speaks to the crowd at his home in the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin.   (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)
Released Palestinian prisoner, Omar Masoud, 40, left, who was arrested in May 1993 for killing an Israeli lawyer, is greeted by his neighbor at his family's house in Shati Refugee Camp, Gaza City.   (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Released Palestinian prisoner, Omar Masoud, 40, who was arrested in May 1993 for killing an Israeli lawyer, walks in his Gaza neighborhood after 20 years in an Israeli jail.   (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
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