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Israel says it will release 26 Palestinian prisoners over next two days

By Ray Sanchez, CNN
updated 10:37 PM EST, Sat December 28, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The prisoners will be released Monday or Tuesday, Israeli prime minister's office says
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry return to the region later in the week
  • Prisoners "have served sentences of 19-28 years," according to Israeli statement
  • Israel pledged to carry out the release in peace talks that started in the summer

(CNN) -- Israel announced Saturday that it will release 26 Palestinian prisoners over the next two days in a step aimed at "resuming the diplomatic process," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement.

The Palestinian prisoners will be released Monday or Tuesday in advance of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's return to the region later in the week in hopes of advancing the peace process.

Israel pledged to carry out the release in peace talks started last summer.

Kerry heading to Jerusalem, Ramallah next week

"In the wake of the Government's 28 July 2013 decision to resume the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and authorize a ministerial team on the release of prisoners during the negotiations, the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners was authorized this evening," the statement from Netanyahu's office said.

The statement said the prisoners "perpetrated offenses prior to the Oslo accords and have served sentences of 19-28 years."

A list of the prisoners' names was to be published Saturday night on Israel's Prison Service website.

The release is expected at least 48 hours after the list is published.

"At the discussion, it was emphasized that if any of those to be released resume hostile activity they will be returned to serve the remainder of their sentences," the statement said.

CNN's Michael Schwartz in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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