The fog surrounding the details of the prisoner exchange deal is beginning to clear – If everything plays out as planned, kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit will
reunite with his family for the first time in five year as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday next week.
Here are the details of the operation, which will begin in the Gaza Strip and conclude in Shalit's home in Mitzpe Hila.
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the middle of next week, Shalit will be transferred from the Gaza Strip to Egypt,
and from there to Israel. At the same time, 450 prisoners will be released from Israeli prisons as part of the first stage of the deal. The second stage will be implemented two months later, and will see the release of an additional 550 prisoners selected by Israel.
IDF officials will receive Shalit in Egypt, in order to identify him and give him preliminary medical examinations. He will then be flown to a military base in central Israel, where he will reunite with his family members and also most likely be greeted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Shalits return home (Photo: AFP)
Shalit will receive further medical treatment at the military base, after which he will finally be taken by a helicopter to his family home in Mitzpe Hila. A team of military psychologists will accompany Shalit throughout the procedure.
In order to prevent media frenzy, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit will document Shalit's return and family reunification, and will hand the images to the media in an orderly fashion.
The security establishment stated that it will allow Shalit to spend several weeks with his close family before questioning him about his time in captivity. IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz is expected to speak with the family in the upcoming days in order to run through the process with them.
Preparing for Gilad's return in Mitzpe Hila (Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv)
Security establishment officials also said they were prepared for any possible scenario meant to thwart the deal from going through.
Meanwhile, the Israel Prison Service is gearing up to release all 450 prisoners. On the day of the release, Shalit will be handed to the Red Cross and immediately afterwards Israel will free 27 female prisoners, most of which will return to east Jerusalem and the West Bank; 2 others will be deported.
Later on, the rest of the prisoners will be transported in buses to the West Bank. Those who are slated to be deported or transferred to Gaza will first be handed over to Egypt.
Palestinian mothers waiting for sons' release (Photo: Reuters)
Earlier on Wednesday Shin Bet Chief Yoram Cohen said that "90% of the Shalit deal was decided upon three years ago. We didn't start from scratch in July. The list of names was agreed a long time ago and the negotiations were in fact focused on who goes where and who gets deported."
Cohen added that "in the initial discussions we already understood that they were willing to compromise. They dropped their demand to release 1,400 prisoners and let Israel choose the 25 "heavy" murderers from a list of 75. Neither Israel nor Hamas surrendered."
In addition, Cohen said Israel agreed to release five other "heavy" murderers who are suffering from chronic illnesses on the basis of "humanitarian release."
Out of the 450 prisoners slated for release, 110 will return to their homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, 230 prisoners who are residents of the West Bank will be deported to Gaza or abroad, 131 prisoners will return to their homes in the Gaza Strip and six Arab-Israeli prisoners will be allowed to return to their homes in Israel.
The prisoners who will return to the West Bank will be placed under restrictions, which include a prohibition on crossing the Green Line or leaving the West Bank for 10 years. Additionally, they will be required to report to the IDF District Coordinating and Liaison once a month, and will be restricted to their district of residence for a period of three years.
Among the prisoners deported abroad, Israel will select 18 that will be allowed to return to the West Bank and east Jerusalem in one year's time; an additional 18 will be allowed to return in three years, in accordance with the completion of their prison sentence. Another 55 will be allowed to return in five to 10 years, while 55 others will be allowed back after only 20 to 25 years.
An additional 55 released prisoners will be banned from entering Israel for life.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Justice Ministry stated that the list of prisoners to be released in the first phase of the deal will be published
by Sunday morning.
The ministry said that the list will appear on the Israel Prisoner Service's website, and the public will have 48 hours "to submit reservations and objections.
Also on Wednesday, Palestinian sources affiliated with Hamas claimed Israel agreed at the beginning of negotiations to release senior Palestinian prisoners, including Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Saadat, but changed its mind at the last minute.
"Two months ago Israel was willing to release Barghouti and other officials," the sources, who were involved in the negotiations, told Palestinian news agency Maan.
Elior Levy contributed to this report