BBC, GUARDIAN, TELEGRAPH (UK), AL JAZEERA
JERUSALEM - Israel has released 26 Palestinian prisoners hours before the opening of renewed peace talks Wednesday. Eleven of the prisoners released in the West Bank were welcomed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, while the other 15 were met by cheering crowds in Gaza.
A total 104 long-term prisoners are to be released over the next nine months, the Guardian reports. "We congratulate ourselves and our families for our brothers who left the darkness of the prisons for the light of the sun of freedom," Abbas said. "We say to them and to you that the remainder are on their way, these are just the first."
One of the prisoners released, Taher Zayoud, from Jenin, said: “I salute the great Palestinian people who stayed with us. They are the ones who secured our freedom and supported our cause”, the Telegraph reports.
A BBC correspondent noted how the prisoners are seen as heroes of the Palestinian cause, while regarded as terrorists on the Israeli side. Israeli families of the victims of the released prisoners, most of whom were convicted of murder or accessory to murder, were denied the appeal against their release and held protests and vigils. Palestinian families of the prisoners say that they are a product of their time, the oppression they have faced, and the fact that Palestinians are killed every day, BBC explains.
Renewed peace talks between Palestine and Israel resume today under the shadow of Israel’s recent approval of building nearly 1,000 new settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem and 900 homes to be built in Gilo, the Guardian reports. These settlements are considered illegal under international law and put the negotiations at risk. BBC explains that US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Palestinians "not to react adversely" to the settlement announcements. He went on to say that US opposition had been "communicated... very clearly to Israel".