Palestinian Authority frees two militants

JERUSALEM – The Palestinian Authority released two militants jailed in connection with a Tel Aviv suicide bombing, making a conciliatory gesture intended to ensure the Islamic Jihad militant group abides by the truce with Israel, Palestinian officials said Friday.

The release was part of a package of gestures that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas made to militant groups Thursday after days of renewed violence with Israel. Abbas also agreed to include Hamas and Islamic Jihad in preparations for Israel’s planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip this summer.

Representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad agreed to honor the 4-month-old cease-fire, but warned they will strike at Israel if they feel they are attacked.

“The truce doesn’t mean taking strikes without responding,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Friday.

Israel has demanded Abbas crack down on militants, but the Palestinian leader has preferred to try to persuade the groups to refrain from violence.

The Palestinian Authority released Sadiq Odeh and Jasser Kob from a jail in Jericho late Thursday on condition they remain in that West Bank town. The two men were arrested – but never charged – in connection with the Feb. 25 bombing of the Stage nightclub in Tel Aviv that killed five Israelis.

Khader Adnan, an Islamic Jihad leader, demanded that Odeh and Kob be allowed to return home and called for the release of the eight other prisoners in Jericho who were detained after the bombing. The prisoners had staged two hunger strikes to protest their innocence.

A committee formed by Interior Minister Nasser Yousef reviewed the two men’s files and decided they were not involved in the attack, a Palestinian security official said.

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