Israel has reportedly informed the Palestinian Authority that it will not release a fourth and final batch of prisoners expected to be freed as part of peace negotiations, a Palestinian official said Friday.
"The Israeli government has informed us through the American mediator that it will not abide with its commitment to release the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday 29," AFP quoted Fatah official Jibril Rajoub as saying.
As a gesture for resuming diplomatic negotiations in July, Israel said it would free 104 Palestinian terroristsconvicted before the 1993 Oslo accords. In exchange, the Palestinians pledged to halt their diplomatic efforts to seek full recognitions a member state in the United Nations.
"Not releasing the prisoners will mark the beginning of the efforts in the international community to challenge the legality of the occupation," stressed Rajoub, who also serves as the chairman of the Palestinian Football Association.
Israel has so far release 78 long-serving Palestinian prisoners. Jerusalem would have needed to publicly release on Wednesday the names of the terrorists it planned to free to allow for a 48-hour appeals period – not including Shabbat – ahead of a Saturday night release.
The Fatah official slammed Israel's said refusal to release the 26 remaining prisoners as a "slap in the face of the US administration and its efforts".
The Israeli government had no immediate response to the report.
Earlier Friday, US State Department envoy Martin Indyk met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the issue of the prisoner release. A PA official said the meeting has ended without result.
Abbas was slated to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry in the coming week following a meeting last Wednesday in Jordan that also yielded little progress.