Israeli Palestinean Talks Continue as Planned Despite Gaza Air Strike
On Wednesday, Israel and Palestine will resume peace negotiations in Jerusalem, but the lead up to the talks was anything but smooth.
The talks were preceded by an early morning Israeli air strike targeted at the Gaza Strip. Israel says that the strike was in response to rocket fire the country sustained from Palestinian territory the night before. Israel reported hitting concealed rocket launchers in the area controlled by Islamic militant group, Hamas.
No casualties were reported on either side, but the attacks strained tensions even more as the countdown to negotiations wore on. The Palestinian Authority, which will take part in Wednesdays continued peace talks are considered to be Hamas rivals. In general, Hamas has been seen as trying to stick to a cease fire along the Gaza and Israel border that was brokered by Egypt.
Hours before the strike, Israel kept its word and released 26 Palestinian prisoners late Tuesday night, returning them to the West Bank and Gaza. The prisoner release is part of a deal set in motion by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to help push peace talks between the two countries forward after a five year standstill.
Among the prisoners were individuals convicted of murdering Israelis. The release happened despite very vocal protests from the families of their victims with some even attempting to block buses from leaving the prison. The freed prisoners were welcomed back as heroes, greeted by their families and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who expressed optimism that the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails would continue saying, ""You are just the beginning and the rest will come."
In total, 104 prisoners are set to be released over the course of the peace talks.
The first day of negotiations is set to continue as planned despite the recent turmoil between the two countries, which also included an announcement by Israel that it planned to increase building along the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, territory where Palestinians are hoping to form their state.