Israel promises to free 250 Palestinian prisoners

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is promising to release 250 Palestinian prisoners next month.

The goodwill gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas comes as Israel wages fresh battles against militants in the Gaza Strip. Hamas militants overran Gaza last year, expelling forces loyal to Abbas.

Olmert informed Abbas of the planned release during a 90-minute meeting today. The release is meant to coincide with an upcoming Muslim holiday, and Israeli officials say all the prisoners will come from Abbas' Fatah movement.

Today, the militants have again been firing rockets into southern Israel. At least 17 Palestinian militants have been killed over the past two weeks, and Israel has clamped a blockade on Gaza.

An aide says Abbas called on Olmert to ease the restrictions, and Israel has allowed 30 truckloads of food and medicine and a limited amount of diesel fuel into Gaza.

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

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