Aug. 13 - Israel is set to free 26 Palestinian prisoners, in the dead of night, as a convoy heads from Ayalon prison to Gaza crossing. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Israel was set to free 26 Palestinian prisoners on Tuesday, in the dead of night to bolster renewed peace talks. Hours after its High Court rejected an appeal against their release by relatives of some of the Israelis they killed, an armored bus was seen leaving Ayalon prison, presumably carrying the prisoners to a main military prison in the West Bank before they are freed. The men, arrested between 1985 and 2001, were to return to homes in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The 26 prisoners due to be released were among a total of 104 that Israel has agreed to free in four stages. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has vowed to seek freedom for all Palestinian prisoners, is set to gain by the prisoner releases, a highly charged issue in a society where thousands are held in Israeli custody. An Israeli official said they would be taken in vehicles with sealed windows to prevent a repetition of scenes in which released Palestinian prisoners have stretched out their hands in V-for-Victory signs. Disdain for the prisoners is strong in Israel, whose media have featured detailed accounts of their attacks on Israelis since a release roster was published two days ago. Palestinians regard the men as heroes in a struggle for statehood. About a dozen Israeli protesters demonstrated outside Ayalon prison, and shouted their opposition as the convoy passed. Hours after the release, U.S.-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians, which opened in Washington on July 30, are due to resume in Jerusalem, with further negotiations expected later in the occupied West Bank. The talks broke down three years ago in a dispute over settlement building in territory Palestinians seek for a state.