Israel to release 1,027 prisoners for its lone soldier
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Jerusalem, Oct 12: Israel waited with bated breath the homecoming of its soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been under Hamas captivity for 1,935 days, after a swap deal was inked between Tel Aviv and Hamas under which the Israelis will release 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.
The deal that was struck after five years of intense negotiations that have repeatedly collapsed in finger-pointing and violence, received support from the majority of the Israeli cabinet.
Twenty six ministers voted in favour of the deal while three opposed in a hurriedly called urgent meeting to approve the deal late last evening.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, and Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, voted against the proposal.
"We have concluded arduous negotiations with Hamas to release Gilad Shalit. He will be coming home in the next few years," Netanyahu in a live address after the deal was signed.
According to the agreement framework presented by the country's internal security agency Shin Bet's chief Yoram Cohen, the deal will see the release 1,027 security prisoners, many among them with "blood on their hands", but will still exclude top Hamas prisoners Israel deemed too dangerous to release.
The deal Netanyahu brought before the cabinet included, at first, the release of 450 Palestinian prisoners, including 280 with life sentences. 110 Palestinian prisoners will be released to their homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, out of whom 55 are Hamas men, with the rest belonging to Fatah and the other Palestinian groups.
According to the deal, 131 Gaza residents will be released back to the coastal Strip, many of whom are reportedly top Hamas operatives.
Another 203 prisoners will be expelled from the West Bank, 40 of whom will be deported overseas and the rest to Gaza.
In addition, 6 Israeli Arab prisoners, who have been serving for many years, will also be released to their homes.
The deal also specifies the release of 27 Palestinian female inmates, most of whom will be sent back to their homes except Ahlam Tamimi and Amna Muna, who will be deported.
The second wave of releases will take place in about two months time, when Israel will release 550 prisoners of its own choosing as a gesture to Egypt, which mediated the deal.
In a briefing with reporters, the Shin Bet chief indicated that senior Hamas West Bank operatives the militant group demanded be set free, such as Abdullah Barghouti, Ibrahim Hamed, Abbas Sayed, and others, will not be released from jail.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 11 Oct 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 11 Oct 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 12 Oct 2011 00:00:00 IST
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