At 10pm on Sunday, 509 Palestinian security convicts were released in the second phase of a massive prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel in exchange for captured soldier Gilad Shalit.
Shalit was held for over five years by the terror group Hamas, who agreed to release him in exchange for a list of criminals serving time in Israel’s prisons for some of the most catastrophic and deadly terror attacks in Israel’s history.
All but four prisoners were taken to four border crossings and released into Gaza, Judea and Samaria on Israel Prison Service buses guarded by police – the great majority to Judea and Samaria. Two prisoners were released to Jordan through the Allenby Gate, and two more were sent to eastern Jerusalem.
Hundreds of relatives and acquaintances of the criminals gathered at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah, where the bulk of the prisoners were discharged, singing and waving Palestinian flags. When family and friends waiting at the Beitunia checkpoint for the convicts’ arrival began throwing stones and ramming the security fence, a clash broke out between them and Israeli soldiers, resulting in the light injury of one soldier.
Five hundred and fifty Palestinian security prisoners were released by Israel at 10 p.m. Sunday as part of the second phase of the Gilad Shalit exchange deal with Hamas. The inmates, most of whom were due to be released in the near future, were transferred in convoys of Israel Prison Service buses, guarded by police escorts.
A total of 1,027 convicts were freed according to the deal, including six women on Sunday. None of the prisoners had been given a life sentence. Most were members of the armed wing of Fatah. In the first stage of the deal, carried out on October 18, Israel released several criminals serving multiple life sentences. In the second half, a large portion of the prisoners were scheduled to be released in a few months.
The first stage of the deal saw the release of prisoners expressly selected by Hamas leadership. In the second stage, Israel picked the list.
Israel’s Supreme Court rejected the petitions of relatives of Israelis murdered by criminals released in the deal, stating that it would not get involved in an issue related to politics and security.
About the Author: Malkah Fleisher is a graduate of Cardozo Law School in New York City. She is an editor/staff writer at JewishPress.com and co-hosts a weekly Israeli FM radio show. Malkah lives with her husband and two children on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
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