Agence France Presse (AFP)
April 18, 2008 - 6:24pm

Palestinians held demonstrations across the Occupied West Bank Thursday in honor of Prisoner's Day and over 11,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

In the north around 2,000 people gathered in the heart of Nablus, waving Palestinian flags and holding large, framed portraits of loved ones, an AFP correspondent said.

"The issue of Palestinian and Arab prisoners is very important  and we cannot talk of peace with the [Israeli] occupation without the release of all Palestinian prisoners," said Nablus Governor Jamal al-Muhaisen.

Demonstrators held banners reading "No peace without the release of prisoners" and "Prisoners, Jerusalem, refugees, and borders are red lines for all the Palestinian people."

Others held portraits of Marwan Barghouti, a popular West Bank leader arrested in 2002 and sentenced two years later by an Israeli court to five life terms after being convicted of involvement in deadly attacks.

Considered a mastermind of the 2000 uprising, Barghouti remains popular and is widely considered a possible successor to President Mahmoud Abbas.

In the southern town of Hebron around 400 people gathered in the center waving flags and portraits, with demonstrators chanting "Tell, tell everyone, the prisoners are the foundation." Similar demonstrations were staged in the neighboring town of Jenin and the West Bank political capital of Ramallah.

The Palestinians have asked Israel to free all prisoners as part of peace talks between the two sides launched at a US-sponsored conference in November and aimed at resolving the decades-old conflict by 2009.

"Our position was and is still unwavering - that it is not possible to make peace with Israel unless all prisoners and all detainees are freed," Abbas said in a pre-recorded statement broadcast in Ramallah.

"There will be no signing of any agreement that does not guarantee freedom for all of them," the statement added.

Israel refuses to free prisoners with "blood on their hands" - those implicated in deadly attacks against Israelis - but in December it freed over 400 prisoners in a bid to bolster Abbas' Palestinian Authority.


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