Israel to Release 400 Prisoners Next Week

An Israeli aircraft fired missiles near a Palestinian refugee camp on Monday, destroying two rocket launchers and wounding three people, while Israel published a list of 400 Palestinian prisoners to be released later this week.

The prisoner release, which was set for Thursday, is part of the February cease-fire agreement, but has been repeatedly delayed.

Israel's foreign minister, meanwhile, said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) plans to meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (search) soon in Jerusalem to coordinate security in the Gaza Strip (search) after Israel has withdrawn from the area.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom gave no date for the Sharon-Abbas meeting, which would be the first since the two met at a Feb. 8 summit in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh that produced the truce.

"We are trying very hard to coordinate (security issues) with the Palestinians in order to make sure" the Gaza areas Israel leave behind do not come under the sway of Hamas or "other extremist organizations," Shalom told reporters outside a European-Mideast conference in Luxembourg.

Israel plans to begin withdrawing from Gaza and parts of the West Bank in mid-August.

The army said it carried out the airstrike as militants were preparing to fire rockets or mortar shells from northern Gaza. It said two launchers were destroyed, but that militants preparing the attack left the scene before the strike.

Hospital officials said a man and two women, apparently bystanders, were wounded by shrapnel.

The violent Islamic Jihad (search) said one of its cells, which minutes earlier had fired three rockets at an Israeli village just outside Gaza, was the target of the airstrike.

During more than four years of fighting, Israel carried out dozens of airstrikes on militant targets in Gaza. But violence has dropped dramatically since the cease-fire went into effect, although fighting has begun to flare up in recent weeks.

Israel published a list of the Palestinian prisoners to be released on Thursday, which included 93 detainees serving terms of five years or more on charges including attempted shootings, the preparation of explosives and assisting attempted murder.

In the past, Israel has refused to release prisoners who have not served two-thirds of their terms, but the list published Monday included several who have completed only a small fraction of their sentences.

The list was published on a government Web site to give Israeli opponents a chance to appeal to courts. In the past, such appeals have delayed release of some prisoners.

Israel had insisted that first, Abbas' Palestinian Authority must disarm militants and halt all violence before Israel continues steps agreed to under the Feb. 8 truce.

The agreement between Sharon and Abbas included an end to violence, handover of five West Bank towns to Palestinian control, and the release of 900 prisoners.

Israel freed 500 prisoners and turned over two towns but stopped the process at that point, charging that the Palestinians had failed to carry out their pledge to disarm the militants in the towns under their control. Also, Israel complained that Palestinian militants still attempt many attacks that are foiled by Israeli security.

Palestinians criticized the decision, saying Israel broke its agreement to consult them on which prisoners to release.

More than 7,000 Palestinians are in Israeli custody, many rounded up by troops during more than four years of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

In other developments Monday:

— Militants carried out two attempted attacks on Israeli forces in southern Gaza, firing an anti-tank missile in one instance, causing no damage or injuries, the army said.

— Sufian Abu Zaydeh, the Palestinian minister in charge of prisoner affairs, said the Palestinian Authority has suspended plans to execute two dozen Palestinians convicted of collaborating with Israel, fearing that putting the inmates to death would inflame tensions with Israel.