Israel to free long-serving Palestinian prisoners

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel is announcing a prisoner release that will include two of its most prominent Palestinian inmates.

The two are among 199 prisoners to be freed as a goodwill gesture to embattled Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (mahk-MOOD' ah-BAHS').

One of them is a militant mastermind who is also the longest-serving prisoner held by Israel. The 57-year-old has served 32 years of a life sentence for charges that include planting a bomb.

Another prisoner is a gunman who was elected to parliament while behind bars.

Abbas, who is a moderate, is struggling to show his people the fruits of drawn-out peace negotiations with Israel. He has repeatedly urged Israel to carry out a large-scale release.

The release is drawing fierce criticism from some Israeli politicians. They say it could undermine attempts to free a captured Israeli soldier held in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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