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Israel to Release 900 Palestinian Prisoners

Israeli cabinet ministers also approved an earlier decision by the army chief to stop targeted killings of Palestinian fugitives and agreed to form an Israeli-Palestinian panel to decide how to deal with them, the Associated Press reported.

Israelis and Palestinians have both said they hope to declare a formal halt to violence at Tuesday’s summit meeting at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is hosting the event, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II is also attending.

The involvement of Egypt and Jordan, which already have peace agreements with Israel, will signal Arab support for any agreements that come out of the meeting.

A cessation of violence is one of the terms of the internationally backed “road map” to peace, which calls for a Palestinian state this year.

President Bush on Wednesday pledged $350 million in aid to the Palestinians to boost security and economic development, and said a separate Palestinian state was “within reach.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters Thursday that he has won an agreement from militants to halt attacks.

“We have announced a cease-fire and the Israelis should announce one also,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and top cabinet ministers agreed to a phased military pullout from five Palestinian cities in the West Bank, starting with Jericho, and free 500 prisoners next week, after the summit, followed by 400 more over three months.

Israel also will open the Gaza Strip border crossings it closed after militant attacks, Reuters reported.

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