Israel's interim prime minister Ehud Olmert on Monday announced the release of 250 Palestinian prisoners as a gesture of goodwill towards the president Mahmud Abbas, officials said. Mr Olmert made the announcement during talks with Mr Abbas in Jerusalem which are part of the US-backed peace talks launched nearly a year ago but that have made little visible progress. "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Abbas of his decision to release 250 Palestinian prisoners belonging to the pragmatic camp as a gesture of goodwill towards Abbas," said a senior Israeli official.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said, "Abbas had asked him to free Palestinian prisoners and Mr Olmert told him of the decision to release 250 at the beginning of December" ahead of eid al adha or the feast of the sacrifice. The Israeli official said that none of the prisoners belonged to the radical Palestinian movements such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. More than 11,000 Palestinians are held in Israeli prisons. * AFP