The army freed 240 Palestinian prisoners Wednesday as Secretary of State James Baker ended a two-day peace mission to Israel.

Before Baker's arrival Monday the Defense Ministry said it would free more than 1,000 Arabs from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. It denied the decision was linked to the visit or U.S. calls for Israeli and Arab steps to build mutual trust.Baker welcomed the gesture, but it outraged Israeli right-wingers, including some in Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir's ruling Likud party.

A Likud parliament member and the anti-Arab Kach movement sought a Supreme Court order Wednesday blocking the prisoner release on grounds it was a threat to security.

An army spokesman said he could not say whether the release, which was initially planned for next week, was moved forward after Baker's talks with Israeli leaders Tuesday.

The Defense Ministry said the Palestinians to be released were not directly involved in violence and had completed most of their terms. Israel traditionally frees a few hundred Arab prisoners for the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr.

Some 240 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip were freed from the Ketziot desert prison camp.