The army released 89 of an estimated 9,000 Palestinian prisoners and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin said more Arabs may be freed in an effort to calm tensions in the occupied territories where a Jewish settler was reported stabbed Friday.
Several Arabs attacked the settler and stabbed him near a market in the West Bank town of Hebron, said Meir Indor, a leader from the nearby Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba. Indor declined to identify the settler but said he had recently emigrated from the United States.The settler's condition was not immediately known. An army spokesman declined to release any information on the incident. A curfew was imposed on the area, Palestinian sources said.
Israeli settlers have frequently been the target of knife attacks in Hebron's casbah market on Fridays when many Jews do last-minute shopping before the Sabbath begins in the evening.
The army spokesman said the prisoners were released in response to requests by prominent Palestinians. The spokesman said 17 Palestinians were pardoned, the sentences of 27 others were commuted and 45 administrative detainees had their sentences reduced.
Rabin, departing for a weeklong visit to the United States, said there would be more releases as long as the territories remain quiet.
Under Emergency Security Regulations, the military can detain suspects for up to six months without trial. Rabin said Wednesday an estimated 9,000 Palestinians are imprisoned in Israeli jails and military detention centers.
More than 100 detained youths were released recently.
In the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip Thursday, soldiers clashed with Palestinians in scattered unrest, Palestinian sources said. At least two Arab teenagers were wounded, the sources said.
North of Jerusalem, Arab schoolgirls threw stones at an Israeli bus, smashing windows and slightly injuring three passengers.
A power outage hit much of the country at midday, but an electric company spokesman said the power failure was not caused by sabotage. Palestinian activists have called for attacks on Israeli agriculture and industry.
In Tel Aviv, a spokesman for Rabin said defense officials were investigating a report by Amnesty International in London on the deaths of 40 people apparently killed as a result of tear gas inhalation.