'Gov't likely to free 980 for Schalit'

MK Katz files appeal see

By JPOST.COM STAFF
November 29, 2009 11:29
2 minute read.

Israel will likely release 980 Palestinian prisoners as part of a deal for the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, the State Prosecution said Sunday, in response to a High Court of Justice petition, initiated by bereaved families, as well as the Almagor Terror Victims Association. The petitioners had demanded that the state make known to the public the criteria determining which prisoners would be released in any deal for Schalit. In response, the government said that in principle , about 450 prisoners would be released in an initial stage, and a further 530 prisoners at a later stage, which will be hand picked by Israel. The petitioners also asked the court to lift the military censure on the details of the deal with Hamas to enable public debate on the matter. In related news, Noam and Aviva Schalit, parents of captured IDF soldier Gilad, met with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday, in an effort to secure support for a prisoner swap deal. "We are neither encouraged nor the opposite. We're still waiting," Noam Schalit said following the meeting. "We have nothing new. We're continuing to meet with all the members of the government," he said, adding that he hoped to conclude the meetings "by the end of the week." Also Sunday, MK Ya'akov Katz (National Union) filed an appeal to the High Court of Justice, asking that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu be ordered to publish the findings of a commission tasked with examining the implications of a prisoner exchange with Hamas. In the appeal, Katz claimed Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were preventing the publication of the Shamgar Commission's findings until after the deal to release Schalit is completed. The commission submitted its findings to the government in 2008. While the findings were never revealed to the public, Katz has said that the commission warned against prisoner swaps. "Imagine what the outcome of the Second Lebanon War would have been if the Winograd Commission had delivered its findings in advance of the war. How prepared we would have been," he said last week. "Now, we have that opportunity with the Shamgar Commission. Netanyahu must reveal the findings before we make any decision to release terrorists, and he must have a debate in the government and in the Knesset before he reaches any conclusion." Sources close to defense minister told Israel Radio that from the outset, it was understood that the Shamgar Commission findings would not apply to the Schalit deal. On Saturday, Voice of Palestine radio reported that Schalit could be moved from Gaza to Egypt in the coming days, ahead of a prisoner exchange with Israel. The report, which was picked up by Israel Radio and Army Radio, cited Egyptian sources who said that troops on the Rafah border crossing with Gaza have been reinforced and instructed to increase their alertness over the coming days. "Passage of Hamas officials in and out of Egypt is commonplace, but this if the first time that there is such a security presence in the area," the sources told the radio. "This indicates that something out of the ordinary is taking place." Gil Hoffman and Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report


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