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Jerrold Kessel: No Palestinian 'major celebrations'

CNN's Jerrold Kessel
CNN's Jerrold Kessel

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CNN's Jerrold Kessel on Israel's release of Palestinian prisoners.
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NORTHERN ISRAEL (CNN) -- Israel on Wednesday began releasing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in a move Israelis said is aimed at advancing the Middle East peace plan. But Palestinians said it is not enough.

CNN correspondent Jerrold Kessel was in northern Israel, where he spoke with CNN anchor Carol Costello about the prisoner handover.

COSTELLO: Israel has now started releasing hundreds of Palestinians from an Israeli prison ... But the Palestinians are demanding more and it is creating another speed bump on that road map to peace.

KESSEL: The Israelis are calling this a goodwill gesture and, indeed, it is, in terms of the fact that they don't -- aren't obliged under the road map for peace to actually release Palestinian prisoners.

But calling it a goodwill gesture doesn't really create the goodwill, it seems, because there are many thousands of Palestinians who will remain after these releases in prisons like this one here behind me, in Israeli prisons, and no immediate likelihood that they'll be released.

And the Palestinians say there are far too few people being released and this is not the way it should have been done, it should have been condoned.

That having been said, there are 339 people who are going free today, who were held by Israel under various terms of detention, of having committed various security offenses, none who had killed Israelis. The Israelis are very adamant on that. They won't be releasing anyone who has actually killed somebody in a terror act, as the Israelis call it, or any kind of action undertaken during -- by the Palestinians in their fight against Israel.

But there will be 339 families that will be happy and as we saw from the faces of many of those prisoners as the buses came out from this particular jail earlier today -- they're being transferred to another location before their eventual release on the border with the West Bank or Gaza -- they were happy, too, showing V signs. Even though they showed their handcuffs that they were still being held with, they're clearly happy to get out.

But by and large, we don't expect to be the kind of national major celebrations on the Palestinian side, because the Palestinians have been hoping, expecting and continue to demand more.

But Israel is begrudgingly making these releases, and says they need to see the Palestinians taking on the terror groups, those who want to go back to militant actions, before they'll engage in any further releases.

All in all, then, it is something of a step, but not really likely to break the ice and to increase the trust between the two sides.

COSTELLO: Jerrold Kessel reporting live from northern Israel this morning. Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, by the way, calls the prisoner release a deceit. That's because most of the prisoners being freed have nearly completed their prison terms. Israel doesn't really want to hear from Arafat because he is not included in their negotiations.


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