Palestinian Prisoner Release 'Sad Day' for Israelis

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Tuesday promises to be a tough day for Israelis, especially for families whose loved ones died at the hands of the Arab inmates being released as a "goodwill gesture" to the Palestinian Authority.

In fact, you would be hard put to find anyone in Israel who approves of the government's decision to release prisoners serving life terms for murder. Recent polls showed at least 85 percent of Israelis oppose the decision. 

The Israeli Supreme Court rejected the families' petitions Tuesday, calling "the issue at hand difficult and sensitive" and saying their "hearts go out to the families of the terror victims."

On Sunday, the Israel Prison Service posted the names of the 26 inmates to be set free between Tuesday and Wednesday, allegedly to allow time for families to petition the High Court. But few expected the court to delay the release.

Earlier Sunday, a three-justice panel of the High Court walked out on families of terror victims, refusing to hear their pleas, after dismissing the petition submitted by the Almagor Terror Victims Association.

"This is a day of celebration for Palestinian terror organizations and a sad day for bereaved families and for Israeli society," Almagor said in a statement.

Past prisoner releases have proven time and again that terrorists return to their former way of life, though some Palestinian officials say that's not likely with these long-term inmates.

Nonetheless, most of the men being released murdered their victims ruthlessly, seemingly convinced that's what they deserved.

Since Sunday, Israeli media has carried gruesome descriptions of the murders -- Israelis who were stabbed and hacked to death using axes, knives and shears, clubs, guns, and explosive devices.

Among the victims were elderly people, farmers, Holocaust survivors, and soldiers, victims of all ages, both Jews and Arabs, murdered in their homes, in restaurants, in fields, and on the street.

But despite the anguish, no amount of protests are changing the facts on the ground. It's not the first time that Israel commutes the sentences of convicted murders as a gesture to the Palestinians.

A statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office said eight of the inmates would have been released in the next three years and two within six months.

The statement also warned "if any of the released prisoners return to hostile activity against the State of Israel, they will be returned to continue serving their sentences."

Meanwhile, P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas arranged for receptions to welcome the men as they arrive at their homes. Some Israeli officials reportedly urged him to tone down the "celebration," but it has long been his habit to champion them. He promised he would not allow any prisoners to be exiled from the "homeland."

On Sunday, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz published a letter from the P.A. Foreign Ministry urging its representatives to convince foreign officials to call the prisoners "freedom fighters" rather than "terrorists." Israelis, the letter stated, are the problem.

"A terrorist is someone who forcefully occupies the other's land, expels him and comes to live in his place, not the Palestinian political prisoner, a freedom fighter," the letter stated.

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