IDF fears terrorists will try to derail Schalit release

Army on high alert, fearing terrorists or right-wing Israeli groups might try to torpedo swap; Meidan in Cairo to finalize deal.

Palestinian prisoners on a bus before release [file] 311 (R) (photo credit: Yannis Behrakis / Reuters)
Palestinian prisoners on a bus before release [file] 311 (R)
(photo credit: Yannis Behrakis / Reuters)
As David Meidan, the government’s chief negotiator on the Gilad Schalit case, went to Cairo on Saturday night to finalize the deal to bring the kidnapped soldier home on Tuesday, the army went on high alert, fearing terrorists or right-wing Israeli groups might try to torpedo the swap.
The IDF Southern Command is concerned terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip that were not part of the agreement – such as Islamic Jihad – will increase rocket attacks against Israel in the coming days to derail the deal.
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And in the Central Command, the IDF is concerned that right-wing extremists might take steps to stop the convoy of buses carrying the prisoners from Ketziot Prison in the South, where they will be gathered before they are freed, from reaching their final destinations.
Meidan is expected to finalize details of the release during his meetings in Cairo. Defense officials said Schalit will be taken across Gaza’s southwestern border into Egypt, likely via the Rafah crossing, where he will be met by Egyptian security officials and a small Israeli delegation to verify his identity and ensure he is healthy. There is a possibility that he will be transferred directly to Israel.
He will then be taken by plane to an IDF base while groups of Palestinian prisoners are transferred from Ketziot to the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Egypt and countries abroad.
At the IDF base, Schalit will meet his family and undergo more comprehensive medical exams. From there he is expected to be flown to the Tel Nof Air Force Base near Rehovot for a low key reception where he will be greeted by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He will then be flown by helicopter to his home in Mitzpe Hila in the Upper Galilee.
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Noam and Aviva Schalit spent Shabbat at their home in Mitzpe Hila, preparing for their son’s return. They organized an overnight bag with items from Gilad’s room that the IDF representatives will present to him upon his arrival in Israel on Tuesday.
One of the issues that Meidan is expected to deal with in Cairo is the final destination of the 40 prisoners to be deported, with Turkey and Qatar among the countries expected to take them in.
Another issue that has come up at the last minute, but which is not expected to foil the deal, is a Hamas demand that all the female security prisoners in Israeli jails be released, and not just the 27 that Israel has agreed upon. According to press reports, Hamas is claiming there are about another 10 female prisoners, including three Israeli Arabs.
Government officials said on Saturday night that Israel had no intention of re-opening the list of those prisoners to be released.
Meanwhile, the legal department in the president’s bureau has begun dealing with pardons for the prisoners to be released.
An announcement issued by the president’s spokeswoman on Saturday night said lawyer Emi Palmor, the head of the Pardons Division in the Justice Ministry, would deliver all the files on the prisoners, including recommendations by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman.
The president’s legal department, headed by lawyer Orit Corinaldi Sirkis, would then prepare pardons for President Shimon Peres to sign. He is not expected to do anything to jeopardize the exchange deal.
Outside the President’s Residence on Saturday night, about 25 protesters demonstrated against the upcoming prisoner exchange.
The Justice Ministry was expected to publish a list of the 450 male prisoners and 27 female prisoners due for release as part of the first stage of the Schalit deal by Sunday morning at the latest.
The list will be posted for public viewing on the Prisons Service website, and the ministry has also announced plans to operate an information center, which will be available to answer telephone enquiries from the public before the prisoners are freed.
Once the list is formally released, the public has 48 hours to petition to the High Court of Justice against the deal. If previous prisoner releases are any indication, the court will not intervene, maintaining that prisoner exchange deals are within the government’s purview.
Joanna Paraszczuk and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.