Arab League plans first Israel mission

Updated: 2007-07-09 08:48

"They will be talking about how the Arab peace proposal can help energize the rapprochement between Israel and the Palestinians," he said.

Last month, Egypt hosted a summit of the Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders to show support for Abbas and to discuss the resumption of peace talks.

At that meeting Olmert pledged to free 250 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in a goodwill gesture meant to bolster Abbas.

On Sunday the Cabinet formally approved the prisoner release. But the timing remained unclear, reflecting a dispute between security officials, who want to free only prisoners whose terms are almost up, and Olmert, who wants a more significant gesture.

"We want to use every means that can strengthen the moderates within the Palestinian Authority, to encourage them to take the path that we believe can create conditions for the start of meaningful discussions," Olmert said in a televised statement at the opening of the Cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Palestinians criticized Israel for not consulting with them on who should be freed, and said the matter should be referred to a joint committee on prisoners the two sides set up two years ago.

"The prisoners issue must be dealt with through this committee and should not happen in unilateral steps," said Saeb Erekat, a top aide to Abbas.

In the West Bank late Sunday, Israeli forces ambushed and killed a Palestinian militant from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in the town of Jenin, Palestinian security and hospital officials said. The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

Ministers in Abbas' government, meanwhile, visited Palestinians who have been stranded in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula because the Egypt-Gaza border crossing has been closed for nearly month, promising to work to get them home.

Frustrated Palestinians shouted at the delegation: "We don't want Fatah or Hamas, we just want to get out of here."


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