A total of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners will be freed from Israeli prison as part of the historic deal for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. The identity of the prisoners about to be releases is unclear at the moment, but names mentioned during the emergency cabinet meeting held Tuesday night are likely to spark a significant controversy in Israel and cause a lot of pain for some families.
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The first stage of the deal will see 450 prisoners released, including 280 who were sentenced to one life sentence or more. The prisoners about to be freed in the first stage are responsible for the death of 599 Israelis.
The full list is expected to be published on Wednesday.
All 27 female Palestinian prisoners will be released, including Amana Muna, who lured 16-year-old Ophir Nahum via Internet chats to his murder and will be deported to Gaza or abroad.
Ophir's father, Shalom Nahum, was stunned to receive the news about the release of his son's killer. "I sat in front of the television and knew that they will soon announce the murderer's release. While listening I realized that it's final, that this time the deal has been signed and there is no way back."
Mabhouh accomplices to be released?
One of the names mentioned during the cabinet meeting was Mahmad Shartaha, one of the accomplices of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who according to Hamas was assassinated by Israel in Dubai, in the abduction and murder of IDF soldiers Ilan Saadon and Ilan Sasportas in the late 1980s, during the first intifada.
Gilbert Saadon holding picture of her son Ilan, murdered in 1989 (Photo: Danny Solomon)
Sasportas, a paramedic in the Paratroopers Brigade, was kidnapped by two Hamas terrorists while hitchhiking on February 16, 1989. Thousands of police officers, soldiers and volunteers searched for him for 81 days. In May 1989, his body was found in an open field, not far from the place he was kidnapped.
Twenty-one years later, after learning of Mabhouh's assassination, the Sasportas family refused to comment on the issue but thanked the defense establishment.
"This time it's different. We support the security forces and the IDF and want all soldiers to take care of themselves and avoid getting hurt. We are also waiting for Gilad Shalit to come home."
Mabhouh after assassination (Photo: Reuters)
Three months after Sasportas' murder, in early May 1989, Corporal Ilan Saadon was kidnapped in the Kiryat Malachi area. His body was found only seven years later. His sister, Mazal Huta, even met with Hamas founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and begged him to tell her where her brother's body is."
Only in 1997, the Palestinian Authority gave Israel a map marked with five possible locations of the body, which was eventually found under a road paved south of Rishon Lezion.
In late 2001, a Golani force arrested Abdel Rabbo Abu Husa, a senior Hamas member who was involved in the kidnapping of the two soldiers.
Gilbert Saadon, Ilan's mother, told Ynet after Mabhouh's assassination, that the new of his death made her very angry.
"All these years I have been told that everyone involved in this has been killed. I thought that was what happened and I was sure they were no longer alive. Suddenly, this morning, I received the report. It's a shame that they only did it now."
Wachsman murderer to be freed?
The parents of Nachshon Wachsman, Yehuda and Esther, have expressed their support for Gilad Shalit's parents, Noam and Aviva, many times. On Tuesday night, they rushed to the Shalit family tent near the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem to congratulate them on the deal.
The name of Jihad Yaamur, one of the Palestinian who murdered Wachsman in 1994, was mentioned during the cabinet meeting which approved the deal.
Nachshon Wachsman's parents at Shalit tent, Tuesday (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Wachsman, a Golani fighter, was kidnapped by a Hamas cell in 1994 as he got on a car with four terrorists dressed as settlers. He was held for several days in a home in Bir Naballah.
Two days after his abduction, a videotape was released showing him stating that "the guys from Hamas have kidnapped me."
Esther Wachsman rallies for Shalit's release in 2009 (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The kidnappers demanded the release of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and 200 other Palestinian prisoners.
Several hours before the deadline set by the terrorists expired, then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin ordered a Sayeret Matkal unit to launch a military operation, which failed, claiming the lives of both Wachsman and Captain Nir Poraz, the force's commander.
Ziad Najib, the owner of the Bir Naballah house in which Wachsman was held by Hamas was arrested on the Allenby Bridge in 1997. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison and was released in April 2010.
'Struggle's symbols' to remain in jail
The "heavy" prisoner who will remain in jail include Abdullah Barghouti, one of the commanders of Hamas' military wing; Abbas Sayad, mastermind of the terror attack at Netanya's Park Hotel; Ahmed Saadat, secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who planned the murder of Minister Rehavam Zeevi; Ibrahim Khaled; Gamal Abu al-Hayja, formerly the head of Hamas' military wing in Jenin; Hassan Salameh, who was sentenced to 38 life terms in 1996; and Ibrahim Hamed, who was responsible for attacks that left 82 Israelis killed.
Shin Ben Director Yoram Cohen said that "the 450 we agreed to release are a big number, but 300 are leaving the area to Gaza or abroad."
He said Israel did not promise not to assassinate the released terrorists. "Once the conditions have matured, we believe the deal should go through as we have no other plan to bring Gilad home. It's a difficult deal to digest also for the families who lost their loved ones, but we can't wait. If we do, we may not be able to bring Gilad home."