The Ministerial Prisoner Release Committee gave the green light Sunday morning for the release of 230 Palestinian Authority Arab terrorists and prisoners, 20 less than originally proposed.
The move comes as another "goodwill gesture" by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for PA Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas in time for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, which begins on Monday.
According to a statement released by the Committee shortly after the decision was taken, none of the terrorists and prisoners carries the status of having "blood on their hands," – that is, having directly committed violence against a Jew. All are members of Abbas's Fatah faction and are serving sentences of varying lengths in Israeli prisons.
"The list was prepared by professional elements in the Justice Ministry and the security establishment," read the statement, which said the prisoners would be freed on Tuesday, December 9, which falls in the middle of the three-day holiday.
The move has been opposed by a number of Knesset Members, among them Likud MK Gilad Erdan, who last week slammed Olmert for the new concession.
Erdan called the decision "a continuation of that same crazy process of surrendering to terror." He added that it was not proper for the Prime Minister, who currently heads a transitional government, to make decisions on a controversial matter such as a terrorist prisoner release.
Two Fatah-aligned terrorists who previously were pardoned by outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert helped plot a bombing at the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station that was foiled last week. The attack was blocked at the very last minute by Israeli intelligence agents, according to WorldNetDaily journalist Aaron Klein.
The Islamic Jihad terrorist group in Jenin coordinated the planned attack with the Fatah-linked Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades terror group. Klein said the terrorists did not inform the media of their involvement as they normally would due to the amnesty agreement and the Prime Minister's plan to free another 250 terrorists as a "goodwill" gesture to Abbas.
Other "goodwill measures" to be implemented for the duration of the holiday, according to a statement released by the IDF Spokesperson's Office on Sunday afternoon include:
- Opening the Huwara, Beit Furik and Beit Iba crossings through overtime hours, from 5:00 a.m. until midnight
- PA Arab men from age 45 and up will be allowed to enter the Temple Mount
- Israeli Arabs will be allowed to enter Area A in Judea and Samaria (the area governed and controlled solely by the PA, which is prohibited to Israeli citizens), in order to visit their immediate families
- The Fig Crossing, north of PA-controlled Kalkilya, will be open to the entry of Israeli Arabs into the city
- The crossing into Jericho will relax its security measures and check only random vehicles entering and leaving the area
- The Allenby Bridge and Mussa Alami crossings into Jordan will be open 24 hours a day.
The holiday of Eil al-Adha commemorates the Islamic version of the Biblical story of the patriarch Abraham's sacrifice of his and Sarah's son Yitzchak (Isaac), as instructed by G-d. Muslims believe that Abraham actually took Ishmael the son of Sarah's handmaid Hagar, with him instead.