Palestinian prisoners go home

Twenty-six Palestinian prisoners released by Israel have returned to their families in the West Bank and Gaza. President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed some of the men as thousands celebrated their return.

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Talks begin as Palestinians welcome prisoners home

Peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators began in private today amid the expectation that they could quickly founder over the issue of Israeli settlements.

It was in stark contrast to the celebrations marking the homecomings of 26 Palestinian prisoners after years spent in Israeli jails.

ITV News' Middle East correspondent Geraint Vincent reports from Jerusalem:

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Prisoners reunited with their families after release

Palestinian families in the West Bank and Gaza welcomed home relatives who were earlier freed from Israeli jails.

Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners, including some convicted of murder, on the eve of long-stalled Mideast peace talks.

A man is greeted by a his father after his release from prison. Credit: APTN

Esmat Mansour said:"I feel great, I wished and waited for 20 years for this moment, to be here with my mother and father, and with my family and friends".

He received a 22 year sentence after being convicted of aiding a Palestinian cell that murdered an Israeli man in the settlement of Beit El.

Esmat Mansour's mother affectionately touches his head. Credit: APTN

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Palestinian President greets released prisoners

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed some of the 26 prisoners released by Israel on Tuesday upon their much celebrated return to the West Bank.

The release was part of an agreement brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry to get Israel and the Palestinians back to the table for peace talks that had stalled since 2008.

In toral, 104 convicts will be released in four batches, although their freedom is contingent on progress in peace talks.

Read: Israel frees Palestinian prisoners

Middle East mourns and celebrates prisoner releases

Israel's release of 26 Palestinian prisoners, a bargaining tool towards the peace talks that continue in Jerusalem tomorrow, has begun tonight in the Middle East.

The prisoners are being driven towards their homes in the West Bank and Gaza, where they will be greeted as returning heroes.

ITV News Middle East Correspondent Geraint Vincent, though, found their freedom has stirred real emotion on both sides:

Watch: Palestinians march with bagpipes to celebrate release

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Palestinians greet prisoners with bagpipes and banners

A large Palestinian crowd has gathered in Gaza ready to celebrate the freeing of 26 Palestinian prisoners by the Israeli prison service.

Palestinians are gathering, some with bagpipes and many waving banners, ready to celebrate the release of the long-held prisoners. Credit: APTN
Hundreds have filled the streets in Gaza as the first group of prisoners are freed from an Israeli jail. Credit: APTN
The crowd has chanted and made peace signs while waiting for the prison vans. Israel has pledged to release 104 prisoners. Credit: APTN

Kerry holds 'frank' call with Netanyahu ahead of talks

John Kerry phoned the Israeli and Palestinian leaders during his ongoing trip in Brazil. Credit: REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

US Secretary of State John Kerry has held a "very frank" phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a bid to keep the move towards Middle East peace on track.

Mr Kerry said he held a "very frank and open, direct discussion of (Israel's announced new) settlements" that Palestinian negotiators said had threatened to "undermine" talks, which are set to resume tomorrow in Jerusalem.

He also spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who he said was "committed to continue to come to this negotiation," despite the building of 1,000 new apartments in Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Read: Critics accuse Israel of undermining prisoner pledge

Israel: Release of 26 Palestinian prisoners has started

Vans and minibuses have been seen leaving the Ayalon prison in Ramle near Tel Aviv. Credit: RTV

Israel's prison service has said it has begun the process of releasing 26 Palestinian prisoners ahead of peace talks.

The prisoners form the first of four groups totalling 104 that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet last month agreed to free in a step aimed at renewing negotiations.

Read: Critics accuse Israel of undermining prisoner pledge