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Israel-Palestinian prisoner swap underway as buses leave jails

October 17, 2011 |  8:26 pm

Vehicles carrying Palestinian prisoners
REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM -- The Israeli-Palestinian prisoner swap began in the predawn hours Tuesday as Israel started transporting 477 Palestinian detainees in heavily guarded convoys from jails to various Red Cross meeting points, Israel Radio reported.

Most of the prisoners -- including about 280 serving life sentences for terrorism and murder -- are heading to locations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Some will be deported to foreign countries.

Under the swap deal reached between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, a total of 1,027 Palestinians will be freed in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

In the first stage of the carefully choreographed exchange, Israel will release 27 female detainees. At the same time, Shalit is expected to be turned over to Egyptian mediators at the Gaza Strip border.
After Israel Defense Forces take custody of Shalit in the Sinai peninsula and return him to Israeli soil, Israel is supposed to release an additional 450 prisoners. Two months later, Israel is expected to free 550 more.

After receiving a medical checkup, Shalit -- who was captured by Palestinian militants in a cross-border raid near the Gaza border in 2006 -- will be flown to Tel Nof air base for a meeting with his parents and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel's Supreme Court rejected, as expected, a last-minute court challenge to block the swap. The suit was filed by relatives of victims of attacks. Many Israelis fear released prisoners will resume their attacks against Israel.


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Israeli-Palestinian prisoner swap brings joy and soul-searching


-- Edmund Sanders