Israeli Cabinet ministers on Tuesday approved a list of 250 Palestinians prisoners slated to be released this week in a gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, an official said.

David Baker, an official Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office, said the ministerial committee approved the release 7-2. He said the names of the prisoners would be published later Tuesday, giving Israelis 48 hours to challenge the release in court. But the men are expected to be freed on Friday, Baker said.

The release is an Israeli gesture meant to strengthen Abbas' Fatah party in facing the Islamic Hamas movement, which took over the Gaza Strip last month. Abbas has since fired the Hamas members of the unity government and formed an emergency Cabinet that rules over the West Bank.

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Of those to be released, 85 percent belong to Fatah, and 15 percent to smaller groups, Israeli officials said. But none are Hamas members, they said.

About 10,500 Palestinian prisoners are held in Israeli jails.

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