Israeli soldier Shalit to be returned home by Thursday
Captured soldier Gilad Shalit is to return to Israel on Tuesday at the same time as 450 Palestinian prisoners are freed if the terms of a swap deal are respected, a senior Israeli official said on Friday.
“We hope that the timetable laid out in the agreement will be respected and that Gilad Shalit will return home on Tuesday,” said the official from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office told AFP, saying a first tranche of prisoners would be released at the same time.
Israel’s chief negotiator David Meidan is due to return to Cairo on Saturday evening to finalise the details of the prisoner swap deal with Hamas, working through Egyptian mediators, public radio said.
The Israel Prisons Authority is expected to publish on its website the official list of Palestinian detainees to be freed on Saturday or Sunday, the radio said, in a move which will give the public 48 hours to lodge any legal appeals before the Supreme Court.
The court, Israel’s highest judicial authority, has never before challenged any government-approved deal for the exchange of prisoners.
The handover can only take place after the appeals period has expired.
Details of the mechanics remained sketchy on Friday, with Israeli press reports saying Shalit was likely to be taken from Gaza into the Sinai peninsula, from where he would be transferred to Israel via one of the crossings.
Haaretz newspaper said 27 women prisoners would be freed as Shalit crossed into Sinai, while the main group of 450 would be released as he crossed the border into Israel.
Shalit was then expected to be flown to a military base to be reunited with his family and undergo an initial medical check before returning to his home in northern Israel.
Shalit has been held in captivity since he was snatched by militants from three Gaza-based groups including the armed wing of Hamas in June 2006.
The long-awaited deal for his freedom was announced late on Tuesday, when Israel announced a prisoner swap agreement with Gaza’s Hamas rulers which will see 1,027 Palestinian detainees released — 450 of them in the coming week, and another 550 within two months.
Another 27 female prisoners will also be released, officials said.