Israel has agreed to release 81 Egyptian prisoners in exchange for Ilan Grapel,
an Israeli-American who has been held in Egypt
since June on suspicion of espionage, Ynet learned on Saturday.
Ilan Graple (26) was arrested by Cairo authorities in June for allegedly being a Mossad operative – an allegation both he and Jerusalem vehemently denied. Egyptian authorities had planned to charge him with espionage, sedition and the attempted arson of a government building.
The Egyptian daily Al Youm al Sabea quoted Egyptian Ambassador to Israel
Yasser Reda as saying that Israel has relayed the list of prisoners slated to be released in the deal.
Reda, who has been tasked by Cairo with overseeing the exchange, did not reveal any details about the prisoners' identity; but Egyptian sources told the newspaper that Cairo was pleased with the names included with the deal, and that the it has been put in motion.
The source further noted that Israeli and Egyptian intelligence officers had discussed the Grapel affair when the former were in Cairo to finalize the Shalit deal.
Egypt's state-run news agency MENA said that Jerusalem and Cairo were "putting the finishing touched on the deal." Grapel is expected to be returned to Israel through the Taba crossing.
It is still unclear exactly when the Grapel deal will take place, but Egyptian diplomatic sources said it may take place in concurrence with the second stage
of the Shalit deal.
Eelier in October, a top Egyptian source told the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat that Cairo authorities no longer believed Grapel was an Israeli spy. "This conclusion means that we can release him in exchange for beneficial results for Egypt," he said.