Israel to release 104 Palestinian prisoners: PM

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JERUSALEM. July 28. KAZINFORM Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday he has decided to release 104 Palestinian prisoners in order to boost prospects for the upcoming resumption of the peace talks with the Palestinians next week.

Netanyahu published the figure in a letter to the nation on Saturday night, before the ruling coalition votes on it at a meeting on Sunday.

In the letter, which was posted on Netanyahu's official Facebook page, he seeks the support of the Israeli public in what he defines as an "incredibly difficult decision."

"At times," Netanyahu wrote, "prime ministers need to make decisions that oppose public opinion -- when the move is important for the state."

He also said the release of the prisoners will test "whether we face a Palestinian side that wants, as we do, a genuine end to the conflict between us."

Previous estimates said Israel will release only about 80 prisoners, as part of a pack of gestures Israel is willing to do before the expected resumption of the peace talks in Washington on Tuesday. It is reported that Netanyahu agreed to raise the number after the Palestinian side threatened not to attend the initial talks otherwise.

Some of the prisoners to be released are Israeli-Arab prisoners that in the past Israel had refused to free, according to Israeli media reports.

Israel's Ha'aretz daily reported that apart from issuing the open letter to the nation, Netanyahu also made a number of phone calls to minister of his cabinet Saturday night, urging them to vote for his decision.

The recent intensive shuttle diplomacy by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has made Israel and the Palestinians agree to resume direct talks, which broke down in September 2010 over Israel's continuous settlement construction in the West Bank,according to Xinhua.

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