Swap list causes fury in Israel, cheers in Gaza

After the release of the names of 477 Palestinian prisoners to be exchanged with an Israeli soldier, Gaza is preparing for a hero’s welcome, but Israel has begun a debate since the list includes suicide bombers.
A Palestinian woman walks in front of a wall painting depicting Israeli soldier Schalit, who is being held in Gaza since 2006. AP Photo.

A Palestinian woman walks in front of a wall painting depicting Israeli soldier Schalit, who is being held in Gaza since 2006. AP Photo.

Israel yesterday published the names of 477 Palestinian prisoners to be released next week for a historic swapping of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, setting in motion a process that will allow the public to file objections, as the Palestinian groups prepare a hero’s welcome for the homecoming detainees.

The list of 450 Palestinian men and 27 women was released early yesterday on the website of the Israeli Prisons Service, in a move which gives the public 48 hours to lodge any legal appeals against the names, Agence France-Presse reported. The remaining 550 prisoners are to be released no more than two months after.

Hamas also published an identical list on its official website.

If the swap goes ahead as planned, Shalit, who has been in captivity in Gaza for more than five years, will be the first captured Israeli soldier in 26 years that returned home alive.

As soon as the list was published, Israel’s main radio and television stations began running through the long list of deadly attacks that the prisoners named on that list were convicted of.

Among those to be freed tomorrow are Palestinians found guilty of taking part in the 2001 bombing of a Tel Aviv nightclub that killed 21 people.

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. As will 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.

The prison service said 131 of the prisoners would be returning to their homes in Gaza and 55 to their homes in the West Bank. Another 55 would be permitted to return to their families in the West Bank but with certain restrictions. Six Arab-Israelis will also be sent home. But 203 prisoners from the West Bank were to be exiled, with 145 to be transferred to the Gaza Strip, and 40 to be sent abroad. Another 18 were to be sent to Gaza for three years before they would be permitted to return to the West Bank.

Israeli President Shimon Peres received the files of the prisoners Oct. 15 to begin working on their official pardons, which must be signed before the exchange, expected tomorrow, until when Israelis can appeal against the release of certain prisoners.

On Oct. 14, an Israeli group representing victims of Palestinian attacks lodged the first petition at the High Court to cancel or delay the deal.

The high court has not in the past blocked a government decision on prisoner exchanges. In their petition, the Almagor said that under the current timetable, the victims’ families would not have sufficient time to examine the names of prisoners set for release and prepare an appeal. While appeals were expected to bring debate over the deal, the sergeant’s father Noam Shalit warned against premature celebrations in Israel, stressing that “it’s not done until it’s done.”

Gaza prepares to receive prisoners as ‘heroes’

Palestinian groups are planning celebrations to mark Israel’s imminent release of hundreds of prisoner “heroes.”

A spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees told a news conference in Gaza that “all organizations have agreed to receive them like heroes with official and popular celebrations.” Ismail Radwan, a Hamas official, said an official welcoming ceremony would be held at Rafah, the crossing point between the south of Gaza and Egypt “with the participation of Hamas and all organizations.” “The festivities will then continue in the Gaza Strip,” he added.

Israel, meanwhile, will not seek to arrest or harm the prisoners it is releasing in the Shalit exchange deal unless they revert to terrorism, senior Egyptians officials told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper Oct. 15, according to daily Haaretz.

The officials said after Shalit returns home, Israel is expected to ease its blockade on the Gaza Strip. But they said any such move by Israel also depends on the conduct of Hamas, which rules the territory.


Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the HDN News staff.

Sunday, October 16, 2011