Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Swap Deal Officially Kicked-Off

Tuesday October 18, 2011 09:49 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies

The prisoner-swap deal signed between Hamas and Israel has effectively entered the implementation process after the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected all appeals filed by Israelis against it. Shalit is now in Egypt; Egyptian sources reported. Hundreds of detainees loaded onto buses in preparation for their release.
Gilad Shalit
Gilad Shalit

The deal will set 1027 Palestinian detainees free on two phases in exchange for the release of corporal Gilad Shalit. Media sources reported that Shalit was moved to Egypt in preparation to be handed to Israel after it releases the first 477 detainees.

Egyptian media sources reported that Shalit was moved to Egypt and is now in the hands of the Egyptian security services awaiting to be moved back to Israel.

Shalit reportedly crossed into Egypt when an SUV loaded with Palestinian fighters crossing the border towards Egypt, and quickly drove back to the Palestinian side of the border after handing Shalit to Egypt.

The second phase will ensure the release of 550 detainees two months after the first phase is concluded.

The implementation of the first phase of the deal started at 2 on Tuesday at dawn when 96 detainees were moved from the Negev Detention Camp to the Ofer Prison in preparation to be released into the West Bank.

334 detainees were loaded onto buses that will drive them to the Kerem Shalom (Karem Abu Salem) Crossing between Israel and Gaza.

On Tuesday around 4 at dawn, a bus loaded with 27 female detainees, 16 detainees from Jerusalem, and three from the 1948 territories drove off on its way to release them. Four female detainees were sent to Karem Abu Salem Crossing, while one detainee from the Golan Heights was moved to a local police station. Three detainees from the 1948 territories were moved to Majiddo Prison in preparation for their release.

On Monday evening, the Israeli High Court rejected four appeals filed by Israelis against the deal, stated that the swap-deal is totally legal, and granted the deal a green-light.

Palestinian Minister of Detainees in the West Bank, Issa Qaraqe', stated that Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, will personally welcome the West Bank released detainees at his headquarters in Ramallah. Leaders of different factions and institutions will be attending the ceremony.

The Hamas movement in Gaza also concluded its preparations for welcome the detainees who will be sent to Gaza. 163 detainees will be sent to the Rafah Border Terminal before heading to Gaza.

40 detainees will be forced into exile, while Hamas' Political Bureau head, Khaled Mashal, will be holding an official ceremony in Cairo to welcome them.

Israeli military and security sources reported that the army is preparing to counter any scenario that could jeopardize the deal, especially after Shalit is handed to Egyptian mediators.

Before being sent back home, Israel wants to conduct a comprehensive medical checkup on Shalit before he is airlifted to a military base in Israel, where his parents will be waiting for him. He will likely undergo another checkup at the second base before he is sent back home with his family.

Israel imposed media restrictions at the base in order to ensure privacy for Shalit and his family.

Shalit will be meeting Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, and Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz.