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Last Updated: Monday, 3 December 2007, 15:16 GMT
Joy as 429 Palestinians released
Prisoner releases in Ramallah
The vast majority of the released men were Fatah supporters
There have been scenes of joy in the West Bank following the release of 429 Palestinian prisoners from detention inside Israel.

The vast majority of the freed men were sent to the West Bank and are supporters of the Fatah group led by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli officials say the move is to boost Mr Abbas in his struggle with the Hamas movement, which controls Gaza.

There are an estimated 10,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

Many have been held for years without charge or trial.

Hundreds of cheering relatives waving Palestinian flags welcomed the first buses of former prisoners as they arrived at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah, in the West Bank.

Delayed release

More than 700 prisoners have been set free since July.

Today's release of Palestinian prisoners is aimed at reinforcing moderate Palestinian leaders
Mark Regev,
Israeli government spokesman

The first bus filled with freed prisoners left Ketziot prison in Israel's Negev desert shortly after 0400 GMT.

The release had been delayed from before US-sponsored talks at Annapolis last week.

Twenty of the freed detainees will return to their homes in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, with the rest going to the West Bank, an Israeli government spokesman, Yaron Zamir, told the AFP news agency.

As in previous releases, none of those freed on Monday had been held for direct involvement in killings of Israelis.

"Today's release of Palestinian prisoners is aimed at reinforcing moderate Palestinian leaders and at favouring political dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians," Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said.

"We understand that it is necessary to accompany the peace process with concrete measures and the liberation of the Palestinian prisoners is a step in this direction."

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