Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Arab League urges release of all prisoners

Women take part in a rally calling for the release of their sons held in Israeli jails,
inside the headquarters of the International Red Cross in Gaza City on Oct. 12.
(Reuters/Mohammed Salem)

 CAIRO (Reuters) -- The head of the Arab League on Wednesday welcomed a major prisoner swap that will free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in return for the release of over 1,000 Palestinians, but said that thousands of other Palestinians who are also being held by Israel should also be freed.

Women will be included among the released prisoners, totaling 27, and over 300 of the detainees to be released are serving life terms for violent attacks according to Hamas.

Under the terms of the deal, which was negotiated between the Israeli government and Hamas, Shalit will be released after he was captured in 2006 by militants.

Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi, who met with Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis at the League headquarters in Cairo, said the deal was welcome but more needed to be done.

"Tomorrow's meeting is about the resolution of the issue of the prisoners. There are more than 6,000 prisoners, and if 1,000 are released then this is great, and the Arab League welcomes this, but we want the release of all the Palestinian prisoners," he said.

The pact was mediated by Egypt. Its role is likely to strengthen Israel's ties with Cairo, which have suffered since the fall of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak in a revolution this year.