[JURIST] Israel [JURIST news archive] released 29 Palestinian detainees and returned them to Gaza Tuesday, adding to Monday's return [JURIST report] of 57 prisoners to the West Bank for a total of 86 prisoners released this week. The releases are meant as a gesture of good will toward Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas [BBC profile] on the eve of a meeting between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert [official website] in preparation for a US-sponsored November peace conference. Last week, the Israeli cabinet approved the release of 90 Palestinians [JURIST report]; none of the freed prisoners were members of Hamas [BBC backgrounder] or were convicted of terrorism-related murder.
This week's prisoner release was the second in recent months. Israel released 255 Palestinian prisoners [JURIST report] in July after the government determined that the detainees were not directly involved [press release] in the killing or wounding of Israelis. As in the current release, the prisoners were released in an effort to strengthen the moderate Fatah against more-hardline Hamas, which violently took over the Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounders] in June. Palestinian infighting between the Islamist-Hamas and the secular-Fatah has established two parallel Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza. Some 11,000 Palestinian prisoners remain in Israeli prisons. AP has more.