More than 400 Palestinian prisoners came home to a heroes' welcome on Monday after the latest Israeli release aimed at boosting President Mahmoud Abbas during the revived peace process. Thousands of singing and dancing well-wishers waving Palestinian flags gathered to greet the buses filled with the smiling ex-detainees.
Israel freed more than 250 Palestinian prisoners met by joyful relatives on Friday, in the biggest such release in two years intended to bolster president Mahmoud Abbas against Hamas. Seven buses carrying handcuffed men from Israel's Ketziot Prison and an eighth carrying seven women drove slowly through the Beitunya checkpoint at the entrance to Ramallah.
A deadline imposed by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas for Hamas to soften its policies to end an acute crisis ticked to a close on Monday as at least five people were killed in fighting in Gaza. Meetings were planned throughout the day and evening in the West Bank town of Ramallah, where the moderate Palestinian Authority president is based.
Hamas was under mounting pressure to renounce violence on Friday after its shock election win as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said he would ask the radical Islamist movement Hamas to form a new government. The sensational victory has thrown prospects for Middle East peacemaking into turmoil and triggered alarm in Israel and across the world.
Embattled Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia finally won approval for his Cabinet on Thursday as MPs overwhelmingly endorsed his radically overhauled line-up, which is dominated by technocrats. After he was twice forced to redraw his plans, 54 members of the legislative council voted in favour of the list.
Beleaguered Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia's future was on the line Wednesday as he shied away from a vote in Parliament on his prospective Cabinet, which has already begun to unravel. Barely an hour before MPs were to begin a session to vote on his ministerial team, a legislative council spokesperson announced that the meeting was off.