Ketziot Palestinian prisoner convoys_311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Israel transferred all the Palestinian prisoners to be released to Gaza and the West Bank to Red Cross buses on Tuesday as part of the deal to secure the freedom of Gilad Schalit.
The transfer to the Red Cross was made after the IDF received confirmation that Schalit was in Egyptian control on the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing.
Israeli officials were awaiting word that Schalit had entered Israel, after which the prisoners will be transferred to the West Bank and Gaza via Egypt.
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Egypt's government was stepping up security at Cairo airport as it prepares to fly prisoners out of the country, an Egyptian intelligence source said on Tuesday.
Cairo airport raised security to emergency level as it prepared to transport 40 of the Palestinians to three countries as part of the swap deal, the intelligence source said.
The source said the prisoners were being sent to Turkey, Syria and Qatar and that their travel formalities were being overseen by Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.
Earlier on Tuesday morning, Israel transferred hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in heavily guarded convoys setting in motion the phased prisoner exchange.
The first convoy of prisoners arrived at Kerem Shalom to be transferred to Egypt where authorities there would monitor their arrival in Gaza. All inmates that were scheduled to be released in the West Bank arrived at the Ofer Prison near Ramallah.
In the deal reached between Israel and Hamas, Schalit will be freed after five years of captivity in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Its implementation is expected to take several hours.
The first vehicles that left a jail in central Israel around 2:30 a.m. were carrying female prisoners, most to be freed in the West Bank. They were accompanied by security personnel from Egypt, who mediated the swap deal, an official said.
All border crossings have become closed military zones in preparation for the transaction.
Throughout Monday night, the Prisons Service finalized preparations to bus the prisoners in heavily-guarded convoys to release points in Rafah and the West Bank. Over 1,000 police were monitoring the transaction.
After receiving the military’s green light, the convoys headed out early on Tuesday under guard by the Prison Service’s Nachson Unit.
Twenty seven female prisoners held in the Sharon prison will be sent to the Ofer prison, from where they will be released to the West Bank.
Ninety six male prisoners being held in the Ktziot facility in the south will be bused to the Ofer prison in the West Bank. Six male prisoners will be released to their homes in Israel. Three will be released from the Megido prison, two from the Ayalon prison, and one from the Katzrin jail in the Golan.
The remainder of the male and female prisoners will board a southbound bus convoy to the Kerem Hashalom border crossing, where they will be transferred to Egyptian custody.
Later, Schalit is expected to be transferred to the custody of the International Red Cross and will cross into Egypt via the Rafah crossing in southern Gaza. He will then cross into Israel and will be taken to a nearby base for a preliminary medical exam.