Page last updated at 14:07 GMT, Sunday, 17 August 2008 15:07 UK

Israel to free 200 Palestinians

Relatives of Palestinian prisoners. File photo
Israel is said to be holding up to 11,000 Palestinian prisoners

The Israeli cabinet has voted to release some 200 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Officials said the actual release would take place around 25 August, but the list of inmates is yet to be finalised.

Mr Abbas' aide described the move as "a step in the right direction", but said more prisoners should be set free.

Israel is said to be holding between 8,500 and 11,000 Palestinian prisoners, including several hundred children.

Israeli government officials said the release would be carried out before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Israeli security officials must still approve the list, but it is likely to include two Palestinians implicated in deadly attacks against Israel in the 1970s.

The cabinet decision follows Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's announcement that he would stand down from his position, after being questioned on corruption allegations.

Mr Olmert's decision to step down when his Kadima party selects a new leader in September is likely to complicate efforts to reach a peace deal this year, correspondents say.

Israel freed 429 Palestinians as a goodwill gesture to Mr Abbas after the resumption of US-sponsored peace talks in November in the US city of Annapolis.

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