Avigdor Lieberman, chair of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home) party, joined Ehud Olmert’s government as deputy prime minister and Minister of Strategic Threats in October 2006. As a cabinet member, Lieberman is an integral part of all strategic discussions. Lieberman, who is known for his advocacy of “transfer,” or ethnic cleansing, of Palestinian citizens in Israel, as well as his declaration that Palestinian members of the Knesset who meet with Palestinian leaders from the West Bank and Gaza should be executed as traitors, immigrated to Israel from Moldova at the age of 20.
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Hamas lawmaker Ashraf Jum’a met recently with the families of the political prisoners and confirmed that they would be released, and also called for the release of all such prisoners in the West Bank and Gaza.
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Minister of Prisoners Affairs Ashraf Al-Ajrami told Ma’an that the six are currently held in the prison in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, north of Gaza. Some of them have already completed their sentences but have not been released yet.
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“It’s possible that we will announce the end of negotiations and the freezing of all contact until further notice, and Shalit’s fate will remain unknown,” he added. Taha denied reports of progress in the negotiations for Shalit, who has been in Palestinian captivity since he was abducted in a 2006 cross-border raid from the Gaza Strip.
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The Israel Prisons service announced at the weekly cabinet meeting that the recommendations will go into effect in the near future. The sanctions will include drastic limitations on family visits and the revocation of the opportunity to take high school matriculation exams or study at the open university.
In addition to sanctions on entertainment media, the prisoners will be subject to stricter guidelines regarding the transfer of money for use at the prison canteen.
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The Islamic Hamas movement has threatened to kidnap more Israeli soldiers if Tel Aviv does not respond to its call to free Palestinian prisoners.
The Al-Qassam Brigade, armed wing of the Hamas movement, made the announcement on Saturday.
Israel had given Hamas a revised list of Palestinian prisoners it is willing to release in exchange for captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, a Palestinian official reportedly told Reuters on Thursday night.
The unnamed official was quoted by the news agency as saying that according to the list relayed to the Islamic group via the Egyptian negotiators, Israel is now “ready to release three top Hamas leaders who they had previously refused to free.”
However, the Palestinian official went on to say that there is still “a big gap between what Israel has offered and what Hamas wants.”