Thursday, February 10, 2005
Sharon to Release Palestinian Prisoners.
JERUSALEM - Israel's prime minister signaled in a newspaper interview Thursday that he's ready to release large numbers of Palestinian prisoners involved in deadly attacks — a key Palestinian demand — if militants hold their fire during Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip this summer.
Sharon said Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas stressed during their meeting earlier this week that the release of long-serving prisoners is a top priority.
"He (Abbas) told me simply that it is a major problem," Sharon told the Haaretz daily. In the past, Israel refused to release those involved in deadly attacks, though in recent days it has said it was willing to consider a few isolated cases.
The newspaper quoted Sharon as saying he told Abbas that if the Gaza withdrawal proceeds smoothly, he would release larger numbers of Palestinians involved in attacks. Israel is concerned that militants will fire on Israeli troops and Jewish settlers during the withdrawal to portray it as a retreat under fire.