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Israel Releases 550 Palestinian Prisoners

VOA News December 18, 2011

Israel has released 550 Palestinian prisoners in the second stage of a deal with Hamas that brought home one Israeli soldier after five years of captivity in the Gaza Strip.

Among those released Sunday were 55 minors, aged 14 to 17.

Israel released 477 Palestinians in October in exchange for Israeli army Sergeant Gilad Shalit who was captured in 2006 during a cross-border raid from Gaza into southern Israel.

The Israeli Prison Service says unlike the prisoners exchanged in October, none of the second group has been convicted of killing Israelis.

Also Sunday, the Israeli Housing Ministry began seeking contractors to build some 1,000 homes in the occupied West Bank.

The homes are part of a settlement plan announced earlier in the year. Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered construction to be sped up after the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO granted the Palestinians membership.

Israel opposes Palestinian efforts to join the U.N. in the absence of a negotiated peace deal.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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