|Israel is likely to deport many prisoners to third countries or Gaza in a blow for waiting families [Reuters]|
A website allied to Hamas, the Palestinian faction which governs the Gaza Strip, has released a list of Palestinian prisoners it expects to be freed from Israeli jails as part of an exchange deal between Hamas and Israel.
According to the list published on Al-Aqsa TV station’s website on Friday, Hamas leaders Rawhi Mushtaha, Yehieh al-Sinwar and Jihad Yaghmur are among those who will walk free as part of a swap for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Na’el Barghouti, the prisoner who has spent the most time – more than 30 years – in an Israeli prison, and 78-year-old Sami Yunis, the oldest Palestinian imprisoned, are also slated to be freed.
Under the terms of the landmark Hamas-Israel agreement made earlier this week, Hamas is to release Shalit who has been held for more than five years, in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, who will be set free in two rounds.
In the first phase, Shalit is set to be swapped next week for about 450 Palestinian prisoners. About 550 prisoners would be released two months later.
Out of the 450, about 272 will be allowed to return to their homes in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jerusalem and Israel, a Hamas official said on Thursday.
The remaining 178 are likely to be deported to third countries or the Gaza Strip, if they are not from that territory, the official said.
The deportations will be a blow to the prisoners’ families, many of whom have waited decades to see their loved ones return home.
Turkish media reported on Friday that Turkey will take in 40 Palestinian prisoners set for exile abroad, after Israel refused to deport them to Egypt, Lebanon or Syria.
Hurriyet, a Turkish daily newspaper, said that about 200 detainees will be exiled, 40 detainees overseas and 163 sent to Gaza.
A full list of the prisoners set to be released in the deal will be released to the public 48 hours before the exchange takes place.
Tuesday is most likely to be the day that the 25-year-old Israeli will return home, a spokeswoman for the Shalit family said, giving the highest level indication so far of the exchange’s timing.
Benny Gantz, the Israeli military chief of staff, had notified the Shalits of the date late on Thursday evening in their home in northern israel, Tami Shienkman, the spokeswoman, told the AP news agency.
“If everything goes smoothly, on Tuesday he will be home,” Shienkman said.
However, Gantz warned that unexpected events could delay the deal, she added.
Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, also said that the swap would take place on Tuesday
“If God is willing, we have an appointment with a great Palestinian national wedding, a historical moment, this coming Tuesday,” Haniyeh said in a speech during Friday prayers in Gaza.
Nearby, workers were erecting a large stage where prisoners would be honoured after their release.
Debating the swap
Israeli police arrested a man on Friday on suspicion of of defacing a memorial to assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in an apparent protest against the impending Palestinian prisoner swap, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
The man was the son of a couple killed in a Jerusalem pizzeria suicide bombing in 2001, Rosenfeld said.
Television footage from the scene showed the memorial covered in white paint and a man spraying graffiti on a wall calling for Rabin’s killer to be freed and bearing the words “price tag” — a slogan associated with hard-line Jewish West Bank settlers.
Hamas’s list of prisoners slated for release, include two Palestinians who helped carry out the attack that killed 15 people.
Ahlam Tamimi, a Palestinian woman serving a life sentence for driving the suicide bomber to the pizzeria, is expected to be released and sent into exile to Jordan as part of the Shalit deal.
The public debate in Israel over releasing such a large number of convicted Palestinians in exchange for one person.
Many of those opposed to the deal are relatives of people killed in attacks who say the freed prisoners will wage similar assaults.