updated 12/15/2008 8:31:53 AM ET 2008-12-15T13:31:53

Israel released 224 Palestinian prisoners in a gesture to moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday.

Buses carrying former inmates, most from Abbas' Fatah movement, drove from an Israeli prison camp in the West Bank to a nearby military checkpoint. There, hundreds of anxious relatives waited for a first glimpse.

As the first bus pulled into sight, some of the released men jumped on the roof of the bus, hopping up and down with joy.

Israel holds more than 8,000 Palestinians. Their fate is an emotionally charged issue. Many Israelis balk at the idea of freeing Palestinians involved in violence.

The Palestinian president's rival, the Islamic militant Hamas, has been holding an Israeli soldier since 2006. It's trying to win freedom for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners as part of a swap.

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