Israel frees jailed Palestinians

Israel has released 198 Palestinian prisoners in what it calls a goodwill gesture to bolster Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

They include two convicted killers of Israelis who have been in detention since 1977 and 1979 and who are among the longest-serving inmates.

The release coincides with a visit to the region by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Washington aims to achieve a Middle East peace deal by the year’s end.

Reaching that target looks increasingly unlikely, as relations between Israel and the Palestinians have been strained in recent months, the BBC’s Aleem Maqbool reports from Ramallah.

Palestinians have been unhappy at illegal Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.

On a previous visit, Ms Rice criticised the policy.


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