A new Israel-PLO accord got off to a fitful start Tuesday as hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, set to be freed by Israel, refused to leave jail in protest.
Israel had been scheduled to release about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners Tuesday to mark the beginning of the implementation of a new accord for greater Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank.But most of the 500 security prisoners who had been scheduled to go free refused to leave prison until Israel releases four Arab women it has refused to pardon.
The West Bank autonomy agreement, signed Sept. 28 at the White House, states that all Arab women prisoners are to be released. But last week, Israeli authorities refused to release four of them because they were involved in murders.
Yasser Arafat's adviser, Ahmed Tibi, asked Israel's Supreme Court Tuesday to order Israel's government to free the women, saying their continued detention violated the autonomy accord.
In solidarity with the women, only several dozen of the 500 security prisoners eligible for release Tuesday agreed to sign the non-violence pledge and leave Nablus prison.
"We are starting a new stage. Our war with the Jews has ended," said Mohammed Jerar, who was just a few days short of completing a seven-year sentence for stabbing a suspected Palestinian informer.
Sami Zahran, who served three years of a seven-year term for weapons possession, said he would not honor the non-violence pledge he signed.
"The occupation is still here and we have to continue resistance until the establishment of a Palestinian state," Zahran said.