450 prisoners to be freed ‘in 10 – 14 days’

Palestine’s Prisoners – Worldwide Event Oct 12,2011 | Pictures | Topic | Category

Maan News Agency | October 12, 2011

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israel will release 450 prisoners “in 10 to 14 days,” including 279 detainees sentenced to life imprisonment, a senior Palestinian official familiar with the prisoner swap deal said Wednesday.

Of these, 110 prisoners will be released to their homes in the West Bank and 131 will return to the Gaza Strip, the official told Ma’an.

Of the 110 prisoners to be freed to the West Bank, 33 are affiliated to Fatah, 15 to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the remainder are Hamas affiliates, the official told Ma’an.

Six of the prisoners to be released in the first phase are from Jerusalem, or inside Israel, and they will return to their homes, he added.

Some 203 prisoners from the West Bank will not be allowed to return home: 40 will be sent into exile in foreign countries and the rest will be sent to Gaza, he said.

The release will be the first phase of an agreement to free over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for an Israeli soldier held in Gaza since 2006.

Under the agreement, a further 550 prisoners will be released in two months. Israel will choose which prisoners to release in this phase, the official said.

Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal confirmed the deal in a televised address from Damascus on Tuesday night.

“Hamas and Israel have reached an agreement under which 1,027 Palestinians, of whom 27 are women, will be freed in two phases,” he said at a news conference broadcast on Arabic-language news channels.

He said the first phase of the deal would see 450 prisoners freed “in one week,” with another 550 Palestinians to be freed “in two months.”

Mashaal met with Israeli negotiators and Egyptian mediators on Wednesday to discuss the practical implementation of the deal, sources close to the matter told Ma’an.

The head of Israel’s domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet Yoram Cohen briefed reporters on Tuesday, and said 203 of the prisoners slated for release in the first phase would be exiled to countries not yet named.

Cohen told the Israeli news site Ynet that prisoners returned to the West Bank would not be allowed to enter Israel or travel abroad for 10 years, and would be restricted to the area of their homes.

They will have to report to the Israeli army every month and will be subject to military arrangements, he added.

The deal, which was reached on Thursday and signed on Tuesday, comes after years of failed attempts to agree a prisoner exchange despite the efforts of Egyptian and German mediators.

Israeli tank gunner Gilad Shalit was captured in a deadly cross-border raid on June 25, 2006 by militants from three Gaza-based groups including Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees and a Salafi group called the Army of Islam.

The deal had repeatedly stalled over the issue of which prisoners would be released and where they would be allowed to go, with Israel insisting that some go to Gaza or be exiled overseas, and not return to their homes in the West Bank.


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