The Palestinian Authority (PA) said Friday that Israel would regret its decision not to go through with the release of the fourth batch of terrorists it undertook to release as a “gesture” to the PA.
Fatah official Hazem Abu Shanab told the PA-based Ma’an news agency that the release of the final group of terrorists would be pivotal in determining the future of Israeli-PA relations.
He added that the international community will be inclined to hold Israel responsible for hindering the peace process.
"The release of prisoners is a legitimate, lawful, and human right. Their freedom should not be linked to concessions regarding extending or continuing the diplomatic process," Abu Shanab told Ma'an.
Earlier, Israel announced it would not go through with the fourth and final batch of terrorist releases, which was scheduled for Saturday night.
PA official Jibril Rajoub told the AFP news agency that Israel had informed the PA through American mediator Martin Indyk that it will not release the fourth batch of terrorists, adding that the move was a "slap in the face of the U.S. administration and its efforts."
Nevertheless, the United States later denied that the peace effort it has led between Israel and the PA had failed.
"Any reports that suggest the talks are off are inaccurate," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told journalists.
"Ambassador Indyk and the negotiating team remain closely engaged with both parties on the ground and will continue to work over the coming days to help them bridge the gaps and determine the path forward," she added.
The release, intended as a "gesture" to promote the stalled peace talks, has been widely protested in Israel. Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon threatened to resign if the move went through. So far Israel has released 78 of the promised 104 terrorists; many of the terrorists were convicted of murdering Israeli citizens.
Much of the objection to the fourth release came after the PA chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, admitted earlier this month that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was staying in talks solely for the sake of the terrorist releases.
Abbas has set the terrorist release, as well as a construction freeze in Judea and Samaria, as a condition for continued talks.
Rajoub on Friday reiterated PA threats to take unilateral moves for recognition at the UN next week, in breach of conditions of the peace talks, due to the release not occurring.
"Not releasing the prisoners will mark the beginning of the efforts in the international community to challenge the legality of the occupation," he stated.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)