Middle East

Israeli bill could complicate future peace talks

Palestinian relatives of fisherman Imad Shukri Salem, 52, who died from Israeli gunshot wounds sustained last month, mourn during his funeral on June 8, 2014 in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMS

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel's Cabinet approved a bill Sunday that could complicate future Palestinian prisoner releases, a central element of negotiations with the Palestinians.

The bill would allow Israeli courts to block the pardon of prisoners convicted of murder. Critics say that will limit Israel's room to maneuver in negotiations.

The bill would only apply to people convicted after the legislation becomes law, meaning prisoners currently serving would not be affected. The bill, proposed by several hard-line lawmakers, still needs to be approved by parliament.

The bill's authors called prisoner releases a "moral failure" and that the legislation was meant to prevent "pardoning terrorists that committed murder in the framework of a prisoner swap or political gestures."

During the most recent round of peace negotiations, Israel released dozens of Palestinian prisoners who had been convicted in deadly attacks. The U.S.-brokered talks collapsed after Israel failed to keep a pledge to release a final batch of prisoners.

Israel also has exchanged prisoners for captive Israelis - and even the remains of fallen soldiers - held by Hamas and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Israel holds some 5,000 Palestinians prisoners. Their fate is a deeply emotional issue in Palestinian society. Palestinians view them as freedom fighters. Israel considers them terrorists.

Meanwhile Sunday, Gaza's Health Ministry said a 51-year-old Palestinian fisherman died from wounds he suffered after his boat was shot at by Israeli forces two weeks ago.

Israel limits how far Gazan fishermen can venture off shore and Israeli naval boats patrol the seas off Gaza's coast to maintain a naval blockade of the territory. It says the blockade is needed to prevent arms smuggling.

The Israeli military on Sunday declined to immediately discuss the shooting.





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