Israel to release 550 inmates in swap deal
JERUSALEM / BRUSSELS
Palestinian women wave their national flags while waiting for the release of Palestinian prisoners outside the Israeli Ofer prison in West Bank on December 18, 2011. AFP PhotoIsrael says it is set to release 550 Palestinian prisoners in the second and final phase of a swap that brought home Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas recounted his meeting with Hamas’ political leader Khaled Mashaal, saying that Hamas agreed to endorse peaceful resistance against Israel and will accept the state based on 1967 borders.
“We laid down the basis for an eventual agreement. Firstly, Hamas has come around on the following points: Peace and calm must be established in Gaza as in the West Bank; resistance must be population-based and not with weapons,” Abbas said in an interview with the Euronews channel.
“Frankly, this was a point we agreed on; the solution is a state based on the 1967 borders – there again Hamas agreed; then there is the organization of legislative elections on May 5.”
The announcement comes a day before senior delegations from Hamas and Fatah were expected to meet in Cairo to discuss ways to implement the Palestinian reconciliation pact signed in May, Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported. Abbas and Meshaal met Nov. 24 in Cairo and agreed to work as partners to implement the pact.
Meanwhile, Israel was expected to release 550 Palestinian prisoners who will be freed after nightfall to complete a swap deal which brought about the release of captive soldier Shalit. The release operation was to take place late in the evening when the prisoners would be bussed to drop-off points near the West Bank city of Ramallah and along the Gaza border.
The Israel Prisons Service said the prisoners would depart from Ayalon Prison near Tel Aviv at 1700 GMT and would be released to the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the Jordan border three hours later, Agence France-Presse reported. Among the prisoners earmarked for release is Salah Hamuri, a French-Palestinian who was convicted of plotting to assassinate a Jewish religious leader and had been due to complete his seven-year sentence in March. There are also six women.
Unlike the first stage of the deal that saw the release in October of 477 Palestinians including hundreds serving life for killing Israelis, Sunday’s operation will not include anyone “with blood on their hands,” officials on both sides said. Under the landmark swap deal agreed with Gaza’s Hamas rulers in October, Israel agreed to free 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit, who had been held in Hamas captivity in Gaza for more than five years.