RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) - Israel freed 198 Palestinian prisoners on Monday in a gesture to president Mahmud Abbas as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was due in the region to spur US-backed peace talks. Crowds cheered and chanted Palestinian patriotic songs as the detainees were welcomed by thousands of supporters at an outdoor celebration at Abbas's headquarters in the West Bank political capital of Ramallah. "The release of this group fills us with joy but we will not be satisfied until all prisoners are released, the 11,000 who are still waiting," Abbas told the crowd, referring to Palestinians still in Israeli jails. "There will be no peace without the release of all our prisoners," he added. The release took place just hours before Rice's scheduled arrival on her 18th visit in two years aimed at encouraging peace talks formally relaunched at a conference hosted by US President George W. Bush in November. "This is a day of joy for the fighters of freedom and independence," said Said al-Attaba, 56, the longest serving Palestinian prisoner who had been serving a life sentence since 1977 for killing an Israeli woman. "It is like a wedding celebration for the Palestinian people, but our joy will not be complete until all Palestinian prisoners are released," he told AFP by telephone. Those released also included Mohammed Ibrahim Abu Ali, known as "Abu Ali Yatta," who was jailed in 1979 for killing an Israeli settler who was studying at a religious school in the flashpoint West Bank town of Hebron. A member of Abbas's Fatah party, he was elected to parliament in 2006 while behind bars. The release of Al-Attaba and Abu Ali was a rare and controversial exception to Israel's policy of not freeing those with "blood on their hands," who have been implicated in deadly attacks against its citizens. "This is a big day we have been awaiting for 32 years," said Attaba's sister Sanaa, who along with friends and family has been preparing a hero's welcome feast for her brother in his hometown of Nablus in the northern West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed the release earlier this month, saying that it would bolster the Western-backed Abbas, whom he has met on a roughly fortnightly basis since the talks were formally relaunched. "We hope it will contribute to a positive climate," Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev told AFP on Monday. "It is not easy to release prisoners, and particularly those who have been involved in murderous terrorist attacks." On Sunday, the Israeli High Court rejected a petition by relatives of attack victims who sought to block the release, saying it had not found any legal flaw in what it called a political decision. Israel had earlier said it would release 199 prisoners, but one of those on the approved list remains in detention because of pending criminal charges. The release is seen as a boost to Rice's efforts to push the two sides towards their stated goal of reaching a full peace agreement by early 2009. They have made little tangible progress on resolving the core issues of the conflict, including final borders, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of the 4.6 million UN-registered Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. Speaking at the prisoners rally, Abbas once again vowed that he would not accept a partial agreement that did not fully resolve the decades-old conflict. "All the issues, including the fate of Jerusalem, the refugees, the settlements and the borders should be resolved. We will not accept any other accord," he said. The process has been marred by violence in and around the Gaza Strip, where the Islamist Hamas movement seized power in June 2007, and Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem. The latest visit will be Rice's first to the region since Olmert announced on July 30 that he will resign from his post to battle corruption allegations after his centrist Kadima party chooses a new leader in mid-September. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who has been leading Israel's negotiating team with the Palestinians, is a front-runner to replace him, as is Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz, a hawkish former general.