The prisoners arrived at Beitunia, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, after a two-hour journey from the Ketziot prison in southern Israel. The prisoners got off Israeli buses and kissed the ground before boarding a Palestinian bus. An ecstatic crowd of waiting relatives clapped and waved Palestinian flags.
Israel also was expected to free 30 Palestinian prisoners in the Gaza Strip, but the release was delayed. Officials gave no explanation for the delay.
But as the prisoners headed home, Israel said it was moving forward with plans to open a new West Bank police headquarters, despite U.S. concerns that development in the area harms prospects for establishing a viable Palestinian state. The Palestinians accused Israel of undermining new peace efforts.
Israel was freeing a total of 87 prisoners.
Most of the prisoners are from the West Bank, which is controlled by Abbas and his government of moderates. The others are residents of Gaza, which has been ruled by Hamas since June, when they defeated the forces of Abbas' Fatah movement and took control of the coastal territory.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced the prisoner release - the second since July - last month as part of his strategy to support Abbas in his power struggle with Hamas. The prisoners are mostly members of Fatah, along with several who belong to smaller Palestinian factions. None belong to Hamas.
Israel is holding around 11,000 Palestinian prisoners, and their release is a central Palestinian demand. While many of those released Monday were serving time for militant activity, none was convicted in attacks on Israelis.
In Gaza City, a group of Palestinians with relatives in Israeli prisons gathered at the Red Cross offices, holding photographs of their imprisoned loved one.
One mother, Fatima Kaisi, said her 24-year-old son Mohammed is serving a 250-year sentence for his involvement in the radical militant group Islamic Jihad.
"I'm happy for the mothers who are getting their sons back today, but the leaders have to know that there are hundreds of mothers and families still waiting to meet with their loved ones," Kaisi said.
In other developments:
"People are very upset that the proposed peace that was supposed to come after disengagement has not come," Meidad said. The government has warned the settlers that if they do not leave voluntarily, they will be removed by force.