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Clashes Erupt as Palestinians Rally for Release of Prisoners

November 29, 1998| From Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Palestinians furious at Israel for refusing to release prisoners accused of political crimes protested throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem on Saturday.

Demonstrators clashed with security forces in Bethlehem, Hebron and East Jerusalem, where police swinging clubs injured several protesters and journalists.

The demonstrators, carrying banners reading "No peace without prisoner release," directed much of their anger at Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority for not doing enough to secure the release of about 2,500 Palestinians.

As part of the latest Mideast peace accord, Israel agreed to release 750 Palestinians in three stages. One week ago, Israel freed the first group, which included 150 common criminals, causing disappointment among Palestinians who had expected the release of compatriots imprisoned for political or militant activities.

The prisoner issue is a sensitive one for Palestinians because most families have had a brother or father arrested at some time in the 30 years of Israeli occupation.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was convening a Cabinet meeting today to reassess Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon amid a public outcry over the mounting toll of dead and wounded Israeli soldiers.

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