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Gilad Shalit swap: Israel names Palestinian prisoners

media captionThe BBC's Jon Donnison in Gaza said many of the prisoners were "serving some pretty serious sentences"

Israel has published the names of 477 Palestinian prisoners who are to be released in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israel's President Shimon Peres has begun the process of pardoning them, his office said.

They are set to be freed on Tuesday in the first phase of the deal. A further 550 prisoners are to be released after Sgt Shalit returns home.

Sgt Shalit was seized by Palestinian militants in 2006, aged 19.

The deal to release him was announced last Tuesday, following years of on-off negotiations.

Complicated transfer

The list of 450 male and 27 women prisoners included in the first phase of the deal was released publicly early on Sunday morning.

A number of pro-Hamas websites had earlier reported some names, but this is the first official list.

Israelis who object to the swap have 48 hours to appeal to Israel's highest court to intervene, before the prisoners are freed.

Correspondents say the court is unlikely to stop the deal, which has broad public support.

Yosefa Goldstein, whose daughter Sari died in a bomb attack in 2002, said the deal was worth it to reunite Sgt Shalit with his parents.

However, there are some Israeli groups that oppose the transfer.

One, the Almagor Terror Victims' Association, said the deal dishonoured victims of attacks and would lead to more kidnappings and violence.

It has filed a petition saying the timetable does not allow the victims enough time to scrutinise the list.

The Supreme Court will discuss the petition on Monday and a ruling is likely to be announced later that day.

Many of those to be freed are Palestinians who were jailed for plotting suicide bombings or shooting attacks.

However, Israel has refused to release three key figures:

  • Marwan Barghouti - militant leader serving multiple life sentences for attacks on Israelis
  • Abdullah Barghouti - Hamas bomb maker also serving multiple life sentences
  • Ahmed Saadat - jailed for role in assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi in 2001

Israel's Channel 2 TV interviewed one female inmate who is due for release.

In 2001, Ahlam Tamimi had driven a suicide bomber to a Jerusalem restaurant, as part of an attack which killed 15 people.

Asked if she felt any remorse, Tamimi - who received 16 life sentences - replied: "No, why should I?"

A spokeswoman for President Peres said he had received the files of hundreds of prisoners, whose pardons he will sign.

Although he has to sign each individually, analysts say he will not block any releases.

Sgt Shalit is to be transferred from Hamas custody to Egypt, who would then hand him over to Israel.

Hamas officials have said the handover details are sensitive amid fears Israel may try to seize him or that he may be harmed by militants opposed to the transfer.

One Palestinian spokesman, Mohammed al-Barem, told Associated Press that the identity of the Palestinians being released would be checked before they are taken by bus to Egypt's Sinai desert.

Only then would Sgt Shalit's release begin, he said.

"They will hand over the captive soldier simultaneously, without announcement and in secret, with strong security procedures by the factions holding him" Mr Barem said.

Sgt Shalit was snatched in a cross-border raid by Hamas militants who tunnelled from Gaza into Israel.

Little is known of his condition and appeals by the Red Cross for access have been rejected.

The remaining 550 prisoners in the swap deal will be released in about two months, according to the terms of the Egyptian-mediated deal.

Some prisoners will be transferred from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, while others will be sent into exile abroad.

Senior Egyptian officials have told the London-based al-Hayat newspaper they expect Israel to ease the blockade of the Gaza Strip following the transfer, although this would depend on the attitude of Hamas.

More on this story

  • Q&A: Shalit release deal

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