Israelis and Palestinians launch talks in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli and Palestinian negotiators launched renewed peace talks in Jerusalem under a media blackout.

Following a three-year freeze, the talks began Wednesday night and were expected to last several hours. There will be no photo opportunities or statements before or after the meeting.

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The Israeli negotiators are Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and the prime minister’s representative, attorney Isaac Molho. The Palestinian negotiators are Saeb Erekat and Dr. Mohammed Shtayyeh, a senior Fatah official. It was not known if President Obama’s peace envoy, Martin Indyk, was present.

The meeting comes less than a day after Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners and returned them to the Gaza Strip and West Bank. A total of 104 Palestinian prisoners is set to be released at intervals, pending progress in the talks, which have a nine-month timetable leading to a peace agreement.

It also comes days after Israel approved the construction of hundreds of apartment units in West Bank settlements and eastern Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Ynet reported before the talks started that Israel has agreed to turn over to the Palestinians the bodies of terrorists who were killed and buried in Israel. Dozens of bodies will be transferred, Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh confirmed to Ynet.