Duel US-Israeli citizen Ilan Grapel landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Thursday after
being freed from jail in Egypt. He was accompanied in a private jet by
the representatives who negotiated for his release, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho and Kadima MK and
former deputy Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yisrael Hasson.
before the plane took off from Cairo, Hasson told Israel Radio that
Grapel, who has been held in Egypt for five months on spying charges,
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Grapel was reunited with his mother at Ben-Gurion Airport, who was waiting for him as the private jet landed. After speaking with his mother, Grapel was
expected to drive to
Jerusalem for a brief meeting with Netanyahu.
Meanwhile, the 25 Egyptian prisoners to be swapped for Grapel crossed over into Egypt through the Taba crossing.
A convoy of three minibuses escorted by police vehicles transported the prisoners to the border crossing from Eilat. The transfer of the prisoners by the Israel Prison
Service (IPS) marked the beginning of the exchange procedures.
be to God," Abdullah, one of the Egyptians being released, told
Egyptian state television at the border, which interviewed several as
they crossed one-by-one. Several bowed down in prayer.
Rabia Suleiman, who had been serving a four-year jail term on drugs
charges, was asked what he would do on his return: "I'll come here and
find any job, and I won't go back."
The United States, which
provides the army that now runs Egypt with billions of dollars in
military aid, had called for Grapel's release.
Gary Ackerman, who pressed for Grapel's release, travelled to Israel to
accompany him back to the United States, his office said in a statement.
The US-brokered exchange deal was reached shortly after
the much more high-profile, Egyptian-brokered swap between Israel and
Hamas that freed captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners.
All of the Egyptian prisoners, according to
information supplied by the Prison Service, were serving time for criminal –
rather than terrorist-related – offenses. The group of prisoners also includes
The exchange was set in motion following the High Court
of Justice's refusal of two petitions against the deal late Wednesday
The High Court debated the appeals, but – as it did last week in the Schalit swap – denied
them on the grounds that these types of exchanges are within the government’s
Joanna Paraszczuk, Herb Keinon and Ben
Hartman contributed to this report.