An accord was reached between the Israeli government and Hamas for an exchange of prisoners. Israel will free around 1,000 Palestinians and the movement that controls the Gaza Strip will free Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured in 2006 and since detained in a secret location of the Gaza Strip.
The final decision came yesterday with an Israeli cabinet vote of 26 in favour and 3 against, including that of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Based on the accord, Israel will first release 450 people and the remaining within two months from the release of Shalit.
Among those to be released are also members of the Hamas and Fatah, the two main Palestinian groups, 27 women and 6 Arab-Israelis. Almost all will be able to return to their place of origin, though 40 will be expatriated and some will not be allowed to leave their cities or the West Bank to go abroad.
The accord was approved by the Israeli Shin Bet secret services, whose chief Yoram Cohen said that the prisoner exchange was the only possible path for Shalit’s liberation.
In a TV address from Damascus, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal welcomed the deal. “Happiness mixed with displeasure that we were not able to free all prisoners”, he added.
Also the President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Mahmoud Abbas expressed satisfaction and pledged to continue efforts for the release of all prisoners.