Israel and Hamas say Gilad Schalit, an Israeli soldier abducted five years ago, will be swapped for about 1,000 Palestinians held by Israel.
Israeli and Hamas have reached a deal to free a captured Israeli soldier held in the Gaza Strip in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, officials from both sides said.
The consummation of a deal between the sworn adversaries after years of fruitless negotiations reflected the pressures facing both Israel and Hamas at a time of region-wide uprisings and a rapidly shifting Middle Eastern landscape.A ministry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the matter said that the list was not finalized and added, “The earliest the swap will take place is Tuesday or Wednesday next week.”Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously warned that a swap for Shalit would free dangerous militants and put Israel’s security at risk. But amid a relentless campaign by Shalit’s family that won the hearts of the Israeli public, Netanyahu ultimately bowed. In remarks Tuesday night, he acknowledged that Israel, which has become increasingly isolated amid the regional tumult, was faced with the stark choice of winning Shalit’s freedom now or seeing the chance disappear forever.
The Israeli public greeted the announcement with joy tinged with anxiety as happiness at the return of Shalit was tempered with concern that the released militants could return to violence once released. As AP explained :
Israeli euphoria over a deal to free a soldier held for five years by Hamas gave way Wednesday to growing anxiety that the swap for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, some of them convicted of murder, could lead to new violence.
When Israelis first got word Tuesday night of the deal to free Sgt. Gilad Schalit, they erupted in spontaneous celebrations. But that joy was tempered when they learned that about 300 Palestinians convicted of killing Israelis would be among the 1,027 released in exchange.
“If many terrorists are released in this deal, it will be an immense incentive to kill Israelis and to carry out further abductions,” said Israeli Cabinet minister Uzi Landau, one of just three who voted against the swap. “This deal will be a huge victory for terror. It will be a blow to Israel’s security and deterrent capability,” he added. Hawkish opposition groups warned of a new violent Palestinian uprising led by those released.