UPDATE: The BBC is reporting that 29 Palestinian prisoners are now moving in an armoured bus toward the Gaza Strip. The Ramattan independent Palestinian news agency reports that the bus arrived at the Erez crossing at noon. The Maan independent Palestinian news agency says, however, that “Israeli forces have been firing heavily on the area surrounding the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, eyewitnesses told Ma’an reporter”. Yesterday, a 14-year-old boy was shot and wounded when he, with other family members, surged forward in anticipation of their loved ones’ arrival, and passed into an area that the IDF views as a no-go zone.
[One of the 30 originally approved for release has apparently left Fatah and joined Hamas, and the Israelis will not release anyone from Hamas, so only 29 instead of 30 prisoners are being released Tuesday. But, has anyone thought, if those reports from Gaza about Hamas repression of Fatah are true, what might be awaiting these releasees? Hamas leaders, however, have welcomed this release, as they say they have welcomed all releases of Palestinian prisoners, no matter how small.]
Earlier today, Kol Israel Radio reported that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, wrote a letter a few days ago objecting to the release of any Palestinian prisoners to Gaza, while IDF Corporal Gilead Shalit remains captive there. Shalit was siezed in June 2006.
Haaretz reports on Tuesday that there is anger at Ashkenazi among members of the Knesset for having circulated his letter among members of the Israeli Cabinet. These Knesset members say this action “may have delayed” the release yesterday of the 30 Palestinian prisoners who were scheduled to return Gaza. The list of Palestinian prisoners to be released had, actually, been previously approved by the “inner” or Security Cabinet, as well as by the full Cabinet. Haaretz says that Ashkenazi himself had also given his approval, but said in his letter that it is nonetheless immoral. The Knesset members apparently object to the military interferening in politics (!)
Haaretz also reports that a spokesperson for Israel’s President Shimon Peres refused to confirm whether this action was the reason Peres yesterday refused to sign the pardon for these Palestinians. Peres’ signature on the pardon is apparently required for the release of the Prisoners from Gaza to go through. As Haaretz explains today: “Peres’ signature was not required for the release of West Bank-based prisoners because the area is under the authority of the Israel Defense Forces and the men were freed in accordance with an order signed by an IDF general.”
These prisoners then underwent an “extra security check” on Monday.
The Haaretz story explaining the “legal and technical” issues holding up the release of some 29 or 30 Palestinians from Gaza is here.
This is a subtle new re-statement of the position still held by some in Israel (though nowhere else in the world) that Gaza is not under Israeli occupation, while the West Bank is.
Continue reading Palestinian Prisoners release – update