Israel condemns 'heroes' welcome for freed Palestinian prisoners

Palestinian prisoners freed by Israel have been enjoying a heroes welcome on their return to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The 26 inmates formed part of a second wave limited amnesty to revive long stalled statehood talks. Fireworks were let off and loud patriotic songs played as hundreds of relatives and well-wishers turned out to greet prisoners who were convicted of killing Israelis.

But Israel decried the celebratory scenes as a “parade for convicted killers”.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said: “We were very disappointed with the reaction in Ramallah, we saw them greeting with celebration the return of these convicted murderers, people who’ve killed innocent civilians, innocent Israelis, and we think the Palestinian Authority should be condemning terrorism, not celebrating terrorism.”

Israel said the prisoner release will not affect its plan to build 1,500 new Jewish settlements in Ramat Shlomo in an area of the occupied West Bank that Israel considers part of Jerusalem.

But the Palestinian prime minister said such expansions threaten to end any chance of reaching a two-state solution.

“According to all UN resolutions, all the settlements are illegal and they will stay illegal. We are worried and concerned that if Israel continues with this expansion of settlement this might kill the two states vision which we would like to see on this land,” said Rami Hamdallah.

The prisoner release has also opened rifts in the Israeli government with supporters of a pro-settler coalition partner calling on the prime minister to cancel the amnesty.