Israel reneges on final prisoner release: Palestinians

Israel reneges on final prisoner release: Palestinians
Israelis hold signs with pictures of Israelis who were killed by Palestinians during a protest in Netanya against the release of Palestinian prisoners on March 24, 2014.

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories - Israel has told the Palestinians it will not be making the fourth release of prisoners they had been expecting alongside US-brokered peace talks, a senior Palestinian official said on Friday.

"The Israeli government has informed us through the American mediator that it will not abide with its commitment to release the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday 29," Jibril Rajub told AFP.

"Israel has refused to commit to the names that were agreed upon of prisoners held by Israel since before the 1993 Oslo agreements," Rajub said. Israeli officials had no immediate comment.

Under the US-brokered deal relaunching the peace talks in July, Israel said it would release 104 Arabs held since before the 1993 Oslo peace accords in exchange for the Palestinians not pressing their statehood claims at the United Nations.

Israel has so far freed 78 prisoners but members of the cabinet said they would block the final release, anticipated for the end of March, if the Palestinians refused to extend talks beyond their April 29 deadline.

The Israeli ministers said the releases had always been conditional on progress in the talks, which had failed to materialise.

The talks have teetering on the brink of collapse, with Washington fighting an uphill battle to get the two sides to agree to a framework for continued negotiations until the end of the year.

US Secretary of State John Kerry met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Amman on Wednesday in a bid to salvage the talks.

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