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Celebrations as more Palestinian prisoners are set free by Israel

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Celebrations as more Palestinian prisoners are set free by Israel

Hundreds of Palestinians provided a lively homecoming at midnight local time for the latest batch of prisoners released by Israel in support of US-backed peace talks.

Twenty-six inmates convicted of murder in the killing of Israelis two decades ago were bussed from jail into the West Bank and Gaza.

In Ramallah Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed some of them back.

Negotiations between his administration and Israel resumed in Washington in July after a three-year halt. However they have done little to reassure Palestinians who resent Jewish settlement of the West Bank or Israelis who doubt Abbas can hold militant rivals Hamas to any future peace agreement.

The prisoners’ release has split Israel’s rightist government. A pro-settler party within the coalition backed calls by bereaved or wounded Israelis to cancel the controversial amnesty.

In all, 104 long-serving Palestinian inmates are expected to go free as part of understandings reached during weeks of US shuttle diplomacy.

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