Prisoner Release List Swells to Almost 600
Dozens of Islamic Jihad and Hamas terrorists among detainees to be freed
The list of Palestinian prisoners whom the security services deem candidates for release now stands at almost 600, and many of the new names are guilty of far more serious offenses than those on the original list, according to sources who have seen the revised list.
The sources said that several dozen of the almost 250 names that have been added over the last several days are members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Furthermore, while the initial list consisted largely of administrative detainees who were due to be released soon anyway and Palestinians convicted of criminal rather than terrorist offenses, most of the new names are genuine security prisoners who have been convicted of terror-related offenses.
Among the Hamas prisoners slated to be released are many who were sentenced to prison terms of 5 to 10 years during the height of the Oslo period, prior to the outbreak of the intifada. These include relatively senior officials in Hamas’ civilian leadership in the West Bank, as well as activists who served as liaisons with Hamas’ leadership overseas, people involved in arranging the transfer of funds to Hamas institutions in the territories or people who arranged military training for Hamas members.
However, the exact number of prisoners to be released has not yet been determined, and it might wind up being slightly less than the number of names on the current list. Over the weekend, legal officials from the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet security service and the Justice Ministry will examine the list to ensure that all the people on it meet the criteria set by the cabinet. One criterion particularly important to the legal establishment is that no one needed as a witness in the trial of an alleged senior terrorist be released before his testimony has been given. Thus the list will apparently be finalized only at the beginning of next week.
The IDF is also preparing a series of humanitarian gestures toward the Palestinians that will be implemented in advance of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to Washington in the middle of next week. The package is expected to include the removal of checkpoints in the West Bank and the reopening of West Bank roads to Palestinian traffic. In particular, at least some roadblocks in the Ramallah area will apparently be removed, with the most important one slated for removal being the Surda checkpoint at the northern entrance to the city. This roadblock has greatly restricted Palestinian movement over the last two years. The army is also considering increasing the number of Palestinians permitted to work in Israel.
But the defense establishment is opposed to more far-reaching measures as long as the Palestinian Authority continues to refuse to disarm the terrorist organizations. An investigation by the IDF’s Central Command revealed that over the last few weeks, the ranks of the terrorist organizations’ local cells have swelled, whereas prior to the start of the cease-fire, they had thinned considerably, thanks to the mass arrests carried out by the IDF and the Shin Bet. In addition to actively recruiting new members, the cells are also trying to build more powerful bombs.
The IDF is still making arrests in the territories, but on a much smaller scale, focusing mainly on people defined as “ticking bombs,” who are planning terror attacks in the near future.
Moshe Reinfeld adds:
The government informed the High Court of Justice yesterday that the list of prisoners to be released will be posted on the Internet 48 hours in advance to give anyone who feels himself injured by a particular release the time to appeal. The pledge was made in response to a petition by the Terror Victims Association.
The published list will include each prisoner’s name, his sentence, the charges on which he was convicted, how many times he has been tried and his previous release dates, if any.
But the announcement failed to satisfy the association, which is demanding both a longer lead time and additional data – most importantly, the names of each released prisoner’s victims.