Israel's list for prisoner swap released

Israel has published the names of 477 Palestinian prisoners who will be released in exchange for the captured Israeli soldier, Sgt. Gilad Shalit. He was seized in a cross-border raid by Palestinian militants five years ago.
Palestinians hold placards and photographs of their relatives held in Israeli jails during a protest in Jerusalem on Friday calling for their release. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

Israel has published the names of 477 Palestinian prisoners who will be released in exchange for the captured Israeli soldier, Sgt. Gilad Shalit. He was seized in a cross-border raid by Palestinian militants five years ago.

The list of 450 Palestinian men and 27 women was released Sunday by Israel's justice ministry and the swap will take place Tuesday. 

On Saturday night, a small group of protesters gathered outside the residence of Israel President Shimon Peres to denounce the deal, saying it's giving in to terrorists.

The Palestinian prisoners on the list include some responsible for deadly attacks on Israelis. Critics say the deal encourages more abductions, is unjust to families of those killed in attacks and poses the risk that freed militants will return to violence.

Israeli President Shimon Peres, right, talks to Noam and Aviva Shalit, parents of Gilad Shalit, who has been held by Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2006. (Tara Todras-Whitehill/Reuters)

Under the exchange deal, 1,027 Palestinians will be freed in two stages in return for Shalit, who is expected to be released to Egyptian custody at a border with Gaza, and then handed over to Israel.

The head of the Israel Defence Forces has said the first stage of the exchange will involve the release of Shalit and 447 Palestinians.

The remaining 550 Palestinian inmates are to  be freed over a two-month period. Among the Palestinian prisoners to be freed are many involved in plotting suicide bombings inside restaurants and buses as well as shooting attacks that killed hundreds of Israelis and injured many more.

How it will happen

The handover of the initial group of Palestinians held by Israel in exchange for Sgt. Gilad Shalit will take several steps, according to spokesman Mohammed al-Barem of the Popular Resistance Committee, a smaller militant faction involved in his capture:

  • First, the IDs of the released Palestinians will be checked. Once confirmed, they will be transferred in buses across the border to the Sinai desert in Egypt.
  • Once they reach the Sinai, the procedures to release Shalit will begin. "They will hand over the captive soldier simultaneously, without announcement and in secret, with strong security procedures," al-Barem said.
  • It is expected Shalit will be handed over to Egypt, which would then transfer him to Israel.
  • Once that is accomplished, the Palestinian prisoners meant to be released into Gaza would be taken to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and returned home.

–The Associated Press

Nasser Iteima, who was behind the bombing of a Netanya hotel on Passover eve in 2002 that killed 30 people and wounded 140, will be released. Another prisoner to be released is  Walid Anjes, who was jailed for orchestrating a bombing at the Moment cafe in Jerusalem that killed 11 people and maimed dozens that same year.

Female driver of suicide bomber on the list

Israel's Channel 2 TV aired a prison interview with female inmate Ahlam Tamimi, who is expected to be released. In 2001, she transported a suicide bomber to a pizzeria in downtown Jerusalem, where he killed 15 people. Asked if she felt remorse, Tamimi said, "No, why should I?"

The CBC's Sasa Petricic met with members of the woman's family in the West Bank on Sunday and they said they were "ecstatic" over her pending release.

"She is not going to be coming back home, though. She is one of the few who are going to be sent entirely out of the country, out of the West Bank. She will be exiled, in effect, to Jordan for possibly forever. It's not clear for how long," Petricic said.

There is outrage among families of the victims who died in attacks carried out by the prisoners to be granted freedom. Members of one family who lost five relatives in the 2001 restaurant bombing had filed a petition with Israel's High Court of Justice to prevent the release of Tamimi.

Hamas officials said Saturday that among those confirmed to be released is Yehia Sanwar, one of the founders of the group's militant wing, who was sentenced to multiple life sentences.

Jihad Yaghmour, who planned and participated in the 1994 abduction and execution of Nachson Waxman, an Israeli soldier and U.S citizen, is also on the list, the officials said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Little is known of the captured Israeli soldier's condition. Hamas banned the Red Cross from visiting him and only released a short audio and video statement not long after his capture, confirming that he was alive.

With files from The Associated Press