Under the deal, confirmed by Hamas, Israel would free 450 Palestinian
prisoners as Shalit would be taken from the Gaza Strip to neighboring Egypt, Middle East Newsline reported.
In the second phase, Israel would release 550 Palestinians, most of them
sentenced to life for killing civilians, and Shalit, abducted from his army
base in 2006, would return home.
Official said the entire process, which would also include the release
of Israeli Arab convicts, was expected to take several weeks. They said more
than 200 Palestinians would be banned from returning to their homes in the
"For the first time, the group [Hamas] agreed that senior members would
not be released and that the number of those released to the West Bank would
be reduced," Israel Security Agency director Yoram Cohen said.
The Palestinians set for release included Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti,
sentenced to five life terms for ordering the killing of civilians nearly a
decade ago. Another Palestinian prisoner was identified as Ahmed Saadat,
secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,
sentenced by Israel for the assassination of a senior Cabinet minister in
Negotiations were intensified in Cairo during September and
included Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari, officials said. They said Hamas
political leader Mahmoud Zahar, a former Palestinian Authority foreign
minister, helped conclude the deal.
Officials acknowledged that the Hamas deal was expected to bolster the
Islamist military wing in the West Bank. In 2011, they said, Hamas
reorganized military cells in such cities as Hebron and Jerusalem and
prepared suicide bombings of Israeli and Jewish targets.
On Oct. 11, the Israeli military indicted four alleged Hamas members for
a March bombing in Jerusalem in which one person was killed and 67
injured. The indictment said the bombing was conducted by a Hamas cell in
"The members of the cell planned an additional suicide-bomb attack which
was intercepted due to their arrest," the military said.
In Damascus, Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Masha'al said Israel
would release 1,027 Palestinians, including all female inmates. Masha'al said
the first Israeli release would take place in a week and the second in
"This is a national achievement for the Palestinian people," Masha'al
said. "We tried to include all Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails,
and we promise the rest of the Palestinian detainees to liberate them."
For his part, Netanyahu did not provide details of the accord. Over the
last year, Hamas is said to have rejected Israeli demands that Palestinians
convicted of murder be sent abroad rather return to the West Bank and Gaza
"I do not wish to hide the truth from you," Netanyahu told the Cabinet
in emergency session on late Oct. 11. "It is a very difficult decision."