Barak Offers Holiday Gestures

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak came up with his own basket of goodwill gestures for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

On this holiday, Muslims celebrate the Islamic version of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, substituting Ishmael, the patriarch's son by Hagar, his wife's Egyptian handmaid, in place of the biblical account.

In a meeting with PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad over the weekend, Barak said he was lifting some restrictions for Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

Men over 40 and all married women can travel to Israel to visit their relatives, and Israeli Arabs can enter areas under Palestinian Authority control, normally off limits to Israelis.

Arab men, 45 and older, living in PA-controlled cities, may attend prayer services at the Temple Mount.

Meanwhile, 230 Palestinian prisoners, some serving time for attempted murder, slated for release Tuesday, will wait another week.

According to YNet news, PA President Mahmoud Abbas requested the delay.

Abbas, reportedly on a pilgrimage to Mecca, will meet with Saudi King Abdullah Tuesday afternoon, followed by a visit with Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman, before returning to Israel.

Some analysts believe the PA president wants to be on hand to greet the prisoners to boost his bid to extend his term, which expires on January 9.

Nineteen of the 230 prisoners will be returned to the Gaza Strip.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, YNet news 

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