550 Palestinians released completing Schalit deal

Convoys of buses arrive at crossings into Gaza, West Bank, Jordan and an IDF base near Jerusalem.

December 18, 2011 22:16
2 minute read.
Palestinians celebrate prisoner release in Gaza

Palestinians celebrate the release of prisoners in Gaza 311R. (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)


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Israel released 550 Palestinian security prisoners Sunday in the second and final phase of the Gilad Schalit exchange deal with Hamas.

The inmates, most of whom had already served most of their sentences, were transferred in convoys of Prisons Service buses, guarded by police escorts.

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Following the release of the prisoners, the military wing of Hamas threatened Sunday evening to kidnap more soldiers to release the rest of the Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

The statement came at a news conference in Gaza: "This achievement will not be the end of the story... We will continue to work for the prisoners at whatever cost," said spokesman for the military wing of Hamas, Abu Ovadia.

The 544 male prisoners were gathered at Ayalon Prison in Ramle, and were joined by the six female priosners from Sharon Prison. They were taken to four release points.

The vast majority – 505 – were released to the West Bank around 10 p.m. Police reported sporadic stone-throwing from a Palestinian area near Ofer Prison, minutes before the prisoners were scheduled to be released. A soldier was lightly wounded.

In addition, 41 prisoners were released to the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Two were sent to homes in east Jerusalem, and two were sent across the Allenby Bridge to Jordan.

None of the 550 inmates released is a member of Hamas, and none has “blood on his hands,” said defense officials.

Most were imprisoned for throwing Molotov cocktails and stones, and some 400 have finished two-thirds of their sentences.

Salah Hamouri, who plotted to murder Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and Taltal Na’asan, a senior Force 17 member who confessed to taking part in shooting attacks and planning to plant bombs near Ramallah are on the list of released prisoners.

Also on the list was Darwis Dadar, a Tanzim terrorist who participated in a Jerusalem suicide bombing that claimed the lives of three Israelis in 2002.

During the first phase in October, Hamas released Schalit after five years in captivity in Gaza, and Israel released 477 Palestinians, including perpetrators of some of the bloodiest terrorist attacks in the past decade.

A total of 1,027 prisoners have been freed under the deal.

Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.

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