[JURIST] Israel released 255 Palestinian prisoners [release list, XLS] Friday who belong to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Movement [BBC backgrounder] and other minor factions. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs [official website] said that the prisoners were not directly involved [press release] in the killing or wounding of Israelis, and that all released prisoners were required to sign a pledge not to participate in violence against Israel.
The prisoners were released as a gesture of goodwill in an effort to strengthen the moderate Fatah against the more-hardline Hamas [BBC backgrounder], which violently took over the Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder] in June. Palestinian infighting between the Islamist-Hamas and the secular-Fatah has established two parallel Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas, which was elected as the ruling party [JURIST report] of the Palestinian Authority in early 2006, has refused to distance itself from terrorism or recognize Israel's right to exist as a nation-state, resulting in increased ostracism by the United States, the European Union, and Israel. AP has more.