Palestinians Warn Against Prisoner Release Delays

Ramallah - The Palestinian Authority warned Friday that if Israel delays the release of Palestinian prisoners scheduled for this weekend, there would be consequences.

The date set by both sides for the third Palestinian prisoner release since they restarted peace talks in July is Sunday, but an Israeli cabinet committee was expected to decide on the names of the 26 prisoners slated for release only on Saturday night or Sunday.

Israel normally gives the public 48 hours after publishing the names of the prisoners to file complaints with the courts. That process could mean the releases would occur Monday or Tuesday.

Palestinian Minister of Prisoners Issa Qaraqi told local media that the Palestinians would not agree to any delay in the freeing of the prisoners.

"Israel will bear the consequences for any delay," he told the official Palestinian news agency, WAFA.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat also rejected any delay, threatening to seek membership in UN organizations if Israel does not meet its commitment regarding the prisoners.

Erekat said the agreement with Israel over the prisoner release was concluded with the Palestinians agreeing in return to not seek membership in UN agencies.

But he said that if Israel does not meet its end of the bargain, the Palestinians would be free to seek membership in 63 agencies, including the International Criminal Court.

An Israeli government spokesman said Friday that he could not yet name an official date for the releases.

The Palestinians and Israelis agreed to release a total of 104 prisoners in four groups. Two groups of 26 prisoners have already been freed, and the final release was planned for March.

Meanwhile, Israel's air force launched missiles at the Gaza Strip overnight, an official said Friday, after a rocket attack from the coastal enclave into southern Israel.

Two targets suspected of being used for the production and storage of weapons were hit in the central and northern parts of the territory, a spokeswoman for the Israeli military said.

At least two Palestinians were lightly injured in the Israeli strikes, hospital officials in the Gaza Strip said.

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