'Israel to free 550 Fatah members in Schalit deal'

Egyptian diplomat says Cairo persuaded Israel that second batch of prisoners to be released in 2 months be from Fatah, AFP reports.

Fatah militant 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Fatah militant 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Israel will release 550 Fatah prisoners as part of the deal with Hamas to secure the freedom of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, AFP reported on Friday, citing an Egyptian diplomat.
A total of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners will be released in the deal, in two stages. In the first stage, 450 prisoners will be released. Schalit will then be sent to Israel, and another 550 prisoners will be released two months later.
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AFP quoted the diplomat as saying Egypt persuaded Israel that the second batch of prisoners to be released in two months time will all be from Fatah.
The diplomat also downplayed the importance of Germany's role in the negotiations, saying "the German role had failed and ended some months ago." He added that Egypt alone had mediated the prisoner exchange deal.
Israel will on Saturday night publish the names of the first batch of prisoners to be released in exchange for Schalit, making his return home possible as early as Tuesday, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said on Thursday.
David Meidan, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s pointman on the Schalit affair, is expected to travel to Cairo on Saturday night to work out the final details of the deal approved by the cabinet earlier this week.
Netanyahu on Thursday evening spoke by phone with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of Egypt’s ruling military council, and thanked him for the central role his country played in putting together the deal.
“Your assistance warmed the hearts of every Israel citizen,” the prime minister said, according to a statement put out by his office.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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