David Meidan, the Israeli mediator
in the Shalit deal, is expected to leave for Egypt overnight to finalize the final the of the Shalit prisoner exchange.
Earlier, it seemed as if a last minute crisis was threatening to hinder the talks between Israel
over Gilad Shalit's
release: Gaza sources told Ynet Saturday that pressure from the Israeli Arab public over the exclusion of three female prisoners from the swap might cause Hamas to step up demands at the last minute – a situation that might cause the whole deal to unravel.
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Palestinian sources said that Hamas was expected to demand that Israel release all female Palestinian prisoners – and not just the 27 currently included in the deal.
But Jerusalem sources refuted the report, saying that only "nuances were left to iron out," and that Hamas' reservations over the identities of some of the prisoners slated to be release, "the deal stands as it is."
The development might delay the implementation of the deal and postpone IDF soldier Gilad Shalit's
return home. Shalit, who has been held captive by Hamas for over five years, is to be exchanged for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.
Izzat al-Rishq, a member of the Hamas politburo in Damascus, told reporters earlier that his organizations has already requested the Egyptian mediators in the deal to negotiate the release of the remaining female inmates.
Palestinian sources said, however, that the mediators rejected the demand, saying that for the time being the signed agreement must be honored as it is.
Gaza vigil for the Palestinian prisoners (Photo: Reuters)
Al-Rishq said that 34 female inmates are held at Israel's prisons, while the Palestinian Authority's prisoner affairs ministry said that there are 38.
Meanwhile, the exclusion of three female Israeli Arab prisoners has angered the community's leaders. The matter has caused an embarrassment to Hamas, whose officials have been claiming that all female Palestinian prisoners are to be freed as part of the deal. Eight Arab-Israeli prisoners are to be freed in the swap, including two female convicts.
An Egyptian source privy to the negotiations told the Al-Hayat newspaper that Israel and Hamas are expected to continue indirect talks on Saturday, with aim of finalizing the deal. The source said that the sides have yet to decide on a timetable and a location for the implementation of the prisoner exchange.
- For the full prisoners list by the IPS click here
The source denied reports suggesting that the actual exchange would take place at the Rafah crossing, adding that the Red Cross will take part in the process.
Speaking of the second stage of the deal, in which 550 Palestinian prisoners are slated to be released in two months time, the source stressed that the individuals in question were not security prisoners, but rather Palestinians serving time for criminal offenses. .
Pro-prisoners rally in Bethlehem (Photo: EPA)
The second list is expected to be determined by Israel and include prisoners from Gaza and the West Bank who have either medical reasons which warranted their release, or those who have already served a substantial portion of their sentence
Following that reports that not all female prisoners were included in the swap, the Palestinian committee for prisoners released a statement: "The refusal to release all of the female prisoners goes against the deal struck with Khaled Mashaal and Israel. This indicates that the Palestinian side is avoiding publishing clear information about the deal, leaving The prisoners' families who are still waiting for news tethered between hope and despair.
"We will not abide a situation in which not all female prisoners are released. If the deal takes place as-is, it will be crossing a red line," the statement said. "We warn those in charge against such a move and demand the deal's details be made public. It is time the parties stopped playing with the prisoners' families feelings."
Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry's Amnesties and Pardons Department has begun processing the cases pertaining to the Shalit deal. Later on Saturday, the ministry's team will be joined by a parallel presidential team that will prepare the necessary clemency petitions.
The process is expected to be completed within 48 hours of the final prisoners list's publication.
Ynet learned Saturday that the Defense Ministry plans to recognize Shalit as a disabled IDF veteran upon his return, and afford him all rights pertaining to the status.
Elior Levy, Moran Azulay, Hassan Shaalan and Ronen Medzini contributed to this report