Rockets Fired From Gaza as Israel Starts Releasing First Palestinian Prisoners
JERUSALEM — Rockets were fired from Gaza at southern Israel as Palestinian prisoners being released by Israel were being transported to the border.
One rocket fired Tuesday night at Sderot fell short of its target and is believed to have landed in side Gaza. A second rocket landed in the nearby Sha’ar Hanegev region in an open area.
A day earlier, a long-range Grad rocket was fired at Eilat and intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. In the prisoner release, 26 Palestinians were transported in vans to crossings into the West Bank and Gaza. They crossed the border at midnight. According to Haaretz, the prisoners were released from their cells at the Ayalon Prison around 9 P.M.
Israel agreed to release the prisoners in order to bring the Palestinians back to the peace negotiating table. The Hamas leadership in Gaza ordered the rival Fatah party to refrain from holding celebrations welcoming home the prisoners, saying it would hold an official ceremony later in the week.
But a crowd of approximately 1,000 people reportedly gathered in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority government, to welcome the prisoners. P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas was expected to attend the welcoming ceremony in the West Bank city. Eventually 104 prisoners jailed before the 1993 Oslo Accords will be released in phases over the next eight months, pending progress in the renewed peace talks.
The talks are scheduled to resume Wednesday in Jerusalem following a three-year freeze, but the Palestinians have threatened to skip the meeting in protest over the order in which the prisoners are being released as well as the announcement of new construction in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, according to reports.