Israel began freeing 198 Palestinian prisoners Monday, in a goodwill gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas approved by the Israeli cabinet one week ago, reported dpa.
The prisoners were to be transferred from a prison close to Jerusalem to a checkpoint near Ramallah, from where they would cross into Palestinian territory for an official welcome at Abbas' headquarters compound in the West Bank city, Israel Radio said.
The list of prisoners being freed included two with "blood on their hands" - Israeli terminology for attacks in which Israelis were killed.
All prisoners to be freed had to sign a form agreeing never to engage again in hostile actions against Israel.
The release takes place hours before US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives in the region for another visit aimed at gauging the progress of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which resumed at the turn of the year after a seven-year hiatus.