Israel’s government has approved the release of 26 long-term Palestinian prisoners, as part of a deal which will see peace talks resume next week.
A list of names chosen by a ministerial committee was published overnight.
The prisoners will be freed on Tuesday. The delay allows time for last-minute legal challenges by victims’ families.
The announcement came after Palestinian officials accused Israel of trying to sabotage the peace talks by approving nearly 1,200 new settlement homes.
An Israeli government spokesman dismissed the criticism, saying every peace initiative so far had proposed that the settlements in question become Israeli territory.
The Palestinians have previously agreed in principle to minor land swaps.
About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
On Sunday evening, a statement from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that 26 prisoners would be released.
It said they would be freed at least 48 hours after a list of their names was published by the Israeli Prison Service. The list was made public early on Monday, once the families of their victims had been informed.
Fourteen of the prisoners will be returned to the Gaza Strip and 12 to the West Bank. Eight were due to be released in the next three years, two of them in the next six months.
The decision was made after a meeting chaired by Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon and including Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Science Minister Yaakov Perry, as well as the heads of the Israeli Prison Service and the Shin Bet security service.
The committee was due to be chaired by Mr Netanyahu, but he was instead recovering from overnight emergency surgery to repair a hernia.
“During the discussion it was emphasised that if one of those released will return to engage in hostile activity against Israel, he will be returned to complete his sentence,” the statement said.
Earlier on Sunday, a small group of victims’ relatives protested against the releases outside the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem.
Yaakov Tobel, whose son Lior was killed in 1990, told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper: “For 23 years I haven’t been able to sleep trying to recreate what happened to my son in those moments.”
“The investigators told us he managed to run for 80m before his blood flow stopped. Let the ministers think about that before they sign off [on the release].”
The victims’ families can appeal to the Supreme Court, but it rarely intervenes in such cases.
Last month, the Israeli cabinet approved the release over the coming months a total of 104 Palestinian prisoners were signed as part of efforts to restart US-brokered direct peace talks after a three-year hiatus.
The Israeli announcements on prisoner releases and settlement construction were reportedly co-ordinated with US officials as part of the pre-talks framework agreed by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Washington on 30 and 31 July.
While Palestinians condemned the Israeli ministry of housing’s decision to issue tenders for building 793 housing units in East Jerusalem and 394 elsewhere in the West Bank, they stopped short of threatening to abandon the direct negotiations.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) executive committee, told the BBC: “We believe that Israel is deliberately sending a message to the US, to the rest of the world that: ‘Regardless of any attempt at launching negotiations, we are going to press ahead with stealing more land, building more settlements and destroying the two-state-solution.'”
“This is an extremely dangerous policy, and if left unchecked it certainly would lead to greater conflict and the destruction of all chances of peace,” she added.
Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told the Reuters news agency: “If the Israeli government believes that every week they’re going to cross a red line by settlement activity, if they go with this behaviour, what they’re advertising is the unsustainability of the negotiations.”
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev defended the move, saying the construction “in no way changes the final map of peace”.
“The construction decided upon in Jerusalem and in the settlement blocs is in areas that will remain part of Israel in any possible peace agreement,” he told the BBC.
However, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, whose centrist Yesh Atid party is the second largest in Israel’s coalition government, said the decision to call for tenders was “unhelpful to the peace process”.