Israel, Egypt putting 'finishing touches' on Grapel deal

Conflicting reports say between 19 and 81 Egyptian prisoners to be freed in exchange for dual Israeli-US citizen suspected of espionage.

Ilan Grapel_311 (photo credit: Channel 10 News)
Ilan Grapel_311
(photo credit: Channel 10 News)
Israel and Egypt are putting the “finishing touches” on a list of prisoners to be freed in exchange for American-Israeli Ilan Grapel, Egyptian media revealed Saturday, though reports differed over the deal’s timing and scope.
Al-Youm al-Sabeh newspaper reported that Yasser Reda – Cairo’s ambassador to Israel who has been serving as an intermediary between the two countries on the issue – provided the prisoner list to Egypt’s Foreign Ministry this weekend.
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Grapel, a law student from Queens, New York, has been charged with spying, sedition and inciting Egyptians to violence during the revolution that unseated president Hosni Mubarak. The 27-year-old’s release was reportedly worked out as part of the deal that brought home IDF soldier Gilad Schalit last week after five years in Hamas captivity.
Egypt’s state-run MENA news agency said the deal was in the final stages, but did not indicate when it would be carried out.
“MENA has learned that the final touches are currently being made to a deal to swap the Israeli Ilan Grapel, accused of spying on Egypt for Israel, for about 16 Egyptian prisoners and three detained children,” it said.
State TV, however, said 28 Egyptians would be released in the exchange.
Last week, Egyptian media reported Cairo was expecting to receive all 81 Egyptians detained in Israel – most of them on charges of illegal entry, drug trafficking and arms possession.
“In response to the demands of the families of Egyptian prisoners held in Israel, the cabinet has decided that the Foreign Ministry coordinate with all the concerned security entities to take the necessary steps to return those prisoners to their homeland,” Egyptian cabinet spokesman Mohamed Hegazy said this weekend. “This includes the exchange of the accused Ilan Grapel with those prisoners and taking the necessary legal steps involved.”
Grapel made aliya to Israel in 2005 from New York and served in the IDF during the 2006 Lebanon War, where he was wounded in action.
Currently enrolled at Emory University in Atlanta, Grapel was at the time of his arrest working for Saint Andrew’s Refugee Services, a non-governmental organization, in Cairo.
Friends, family and US and Israeli officials have dismissed the charges against him as “bizarre” and “ludicrous.”