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Writen by David Stern.

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Netanyahu: Gilad Shalit to return home in days



Gilad Shalit will return home to his family in the coming days, Prime Minister Binyamin said at the start of an urgent cabinet meeting convened Tuesday evening, where he informed ministers of the deal secured for the soldier's release. Netanyahu said he had ordered the Israeli delegation charged with negotiations to initial an agreement drawn up with Hamas and mediated by Egypt, last Thursday in Cairo. Tuesday's meeting occurred shortly after the al-Arabiya network quoted an unnamed source announcing that Israel and Hamas had reached a deal. Israeli officials said the deal would be carried out in stages.

Israel will release 300 prisoners out of a list of 450 prisoners drawn up by Hamas and Shalit will be transferred to Egypt and returned to Israel. At the same time an additional 150 prisoners will then be freed and shortly after a batch of 550 Palestinian prisoners of Israel's choosing. Hamas officials in Gaza said a list of the prisoners' names would be published Tuesday night. The officials said among the 1,000 to be set free are 300 prisoners sentenced to numerous life sentences in Israel for their role in terror attacks, and said prisoners from other organizations besides Hamas will also be released. The officials hinted members of other organization could include Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Sadat involved in the murder of former Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi.

Netanyahu stressed that a window of opportunity had been created that could shortly close due to the upheaval in the Middle East and the uncertainty concerning Arab regimes. He thanked the Egyptian government whose efforts were instrumental in securing the deal and also thanked Angela Merkel for allowing the German mediator to continue his efforts to secure Shalit's release. In June 2006, Gilad Shalit was deployed near the Gaza Strip when he was abducted and taken to the Gaza Strip where he has been held incommunicado ever since.

Update: Gilad Shalit Released

October 16th, 2011.


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