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Israel arrests 17 Palestinians ahead of prisoners release
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20:08, December 15, 2008

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Israeli forces arrested 17 Palestinians in the West Bank early Monday, hours before a scheduled release of some 230 prisoners aimed at bolstering Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

According to Palestinian sources, the detention took place in several cities in the occupied West Bank, ruled by a Western-backed Palestinian government.

Israel said the detainees were wanted by its security and intelligence services. The arrest is part of frequent raids carried out by the Israel army in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, Israel said it will release 227 Palestinian prisoners on Monday noon as a goodwill gesture towards the Palestinian government.

Last month, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised to free a number of prisoners in early December, but the release was delayed.

Nineteen of the prisoners to be released are from the Gaza Strip, a coastal territory controlled by Abbas' bitter rival -- the Islamic Hamas movement.

Hamas has been holding an Israeli soldier since June 2006, demanding to swap him for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.


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