JERUSALEM — A Palestinian convicted in the hacking death of an Israeli seeking to build Palestinian Gaza ties is among 26 men to be freed from Israeli jails, Israel said.
Amer Massoud Issa Rajib, a member of the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, is expected to be released with the 25 other convicts late Tuesday, Israeli newspaper Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post said.
Rajib was convicted in 1993 of hacking Ian Feinberg to death with an ax.
Feinberg, 32, was a lawyer who spent time in Gaza cultivating ties to the local Palestinian community while trying with the help of the European Community to boost the Gaza economy, the Post and British newspaper The Independent said.
Rajib, who is serving three life terms, was separately convicted of kidnapping and murdering three Palestinians he suspected of collaborating with Israel, and assaulting three Palestinians who he said carried out “moral crimes,” the European Jewish Press reported.
Rajib and the others expected to be released are among 104 Palestinians the Israeli Cabinet agreed in July to release in four phases to comply with a key Palestinian Authority demand to renew peace talks.
Israel released the first group of 26 in August. All released prisoners are serving at least 20 years for attacks on Israelis.
Twenty-one of the prisoners expected to be released Tuesday are from the West Bank and five are from Gaza, the list indicated.
The families of the prisoners’ victims were notified of the men’s release before the list was published, as required under Israeli law. Opponents were given 48 hours to petition the Israeli Supreme Court against the release.
If the court rejects the petitions swiftly, as it did in August, the prisoners are expected to be released Tuesday, the Israeli newspapers said.
Earlier Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs rejected by an 8-5 vote a bill that sought to block the Palestinian prisoners’ release.
A ministerial committee headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu approved the prisoner list.
“We have to honor government decisions even if it is difficult and unpleasant, we can’t constantly change our stance,” Netanyahu told the ministers Sunday in remarks quoted by the Post.
“We want to reach an accord with the Palestinians, primarily to ensure [Israel’s] security,” he said.
A senior Israeli official told Haaretz last week Israel planned to announce new West Bank settlements the same day it releases the prisoners.
Having the construction announcement and prisoner release coincide would seek to blunt expected right-wing protests against freeing the prisoners, the senior official told the newspaper.
The United States and the Palestinian Authority were briefed about the dual plans last week, Haaretz said.
Amid the preparations, envoys from the so-called Middle East Quartet — representing the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia — were to meet in Jerusalem Monday. The quartet is involved in mediating the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.