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Zahhar Announces Prisoner Swap Deal Including Lifting the Israeli Siege on Gaza

October 19, 2011

Upon Releasing the Infamous 477 Detainees, Army Kidnaps Four West Bank Residents

Wednesday October 19, 2011 11:36 by Mais Azza - IMEMC & Agencies

The Israeli Army detained four Palestinian residents from the southern part of the West Bank on Wednesday morning, the Palestinian News Agency Ma’an reported.

Israeli sources have stated that those arrested are from different regions- the city of Bethlehem, and the villages of Beit U’mmar and Yatta, in the south of the West Bank. They also claimed that the army confiscated fifty bullets during the detention process.

The Israeli military kidnapped Khader Abu Hashem, 44, from the village of Beit U’mmar in the West Bank city of Hebron, searched his home, and confiscated three computers. He was moved to an unknown destination.

The army also searched the homes of ‘Imad Abu Hashem and ‘Imad Sabarneh, causing damage to the furniture

Israel To Enforce Harsh Restrictions On Released Detainees

Wednesday October 19, 2011 10:43 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies

Israeli daily, Yedioth Aharonoth, quoted Israeli security officials stating that Israel will be imposing harsh restrictions on West Bank former detainees released under the prisoner-swap deal.

The detainees will be required to report to the nearest military base on regular bases; being late to the set appointment means being sent back to prison to serve the remainder of the original sentence.

A total of 96 detainees from the West Bank were allowed back home and 14 others were allowed back to Jerusalem.

The Israeli Internal Security imposed these restrictions on nearly half of them, while some of these restrictions include preventing them from leaving their own towns for several years. Several others will have to report to the nearest military base at least once a month.

The Israeli paper said that should any of the released detainees be late, even for an hour, harsh measures will be taken against him, including sending them back to prison to serve the remainder of their terms; if they were sentenced to life-terms before their release, they will be arrested to serve the whole sentence.

It also stated that the detainees were informed of these preconditions, and signed the affidavits before they were released, adding that the Palestinian Authority had nothing to do with the deal, but its security forces were informed of the names and residence of the freed detainees.

Furthermore, some Israeli security officials stated that, in the near future, the Palestinian Security Forces will not be arresting released Hamas former prisoners who were sent back in the West Bank, and other Hamas members, in order not to be accused of collaborating with Israel.

The officials added that security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has proven to be effective, and that they believe that this cooperation will be further boosted.

Earlier on Tuesday, Israel released 477 Palestinian detainees, as part of the first phase of the Palestinian-Israeli swap deal which includes the release of a total of 1027 Palestinian detainees in exchange for the release of Gilad Shalit.

247 of the released detainees will be sent back to their homes in Gaza, 96 to the West Bank, 14 to Jerusalem, and 6, including one who lives in the Golan Heights, to their towns in the 1948 territories.

All 37 detainees, who were forced into exile as part of the Shalit swap deal Between Hamas and Israel, arrived in Syria, Qatar and Turkey, while the exiled female detainee, Ahlam Tamimi, was sent to Amman – Jordan.

10 detainees were sent to Turkey, 16 to Syria, 15 to Qatar while Tamimi was sent to Jordan. They were all airlifted from Cairo to the countries that agreed to host them.

Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, arrived back in Israel and was welcomed by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, in addition to several political, military and security leaders.

In related news, U.S State Department Spokesperson, Mark Toner, said that Washington is concerned over the release of some of the detainees. He did not elaborate on the issue, but only stated that his government informed Israel of its position.

Zahhar: “Swap-deal Includes Lifting The Siege On Gaza”

Tuesday October 18, 2011 09:08 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies

Hamas political leader, Mahmoud Zahhar, told Israeli daily Haaretz, that the prisoner-swap deal reached indirectly between Hamas and Israel includes lifting the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.

Zahhar added that this issue was agreed upon when the German mediator started his role in the prisoner-exchange talks. “This is still valid under the current agreement,” he said.

The Hamas leader further stated that the deal to release prisoner-of-war Gilad Shalit, in return for releasing more than a thousand Palestinian detainees, also includes a section obliging Israel to improve the living conditions of the Palestinian detainees, adding that Gaza Strip families of the detainees will be allowed to visit their beloved ones.

After Shalit was captured on June 26th, 2006, Israel canceled all visitation rights to the families of political prisoners who resided within the Gaza Strip.

Zahhar also insisted that Israel will have to ease the restrictions on border terminals leading to Gaza, including travel from Gaza to the West Bank via Israel.

Moreover, he stated that the deal incorporated the increasing of exports from the Gaza Strip to Israel and abroad.

Meanwhile, officials at the Israeli Defense Ministry stated that the Shalit deal represents a shift in the relations between Hamas and Israel, adding that in recent months Israel started easing the siege on Gaza as part of an unofficial ceasefire between Hamas and Tel Aviv.

All Freed Detainees Are Now In Gaza And Ramallah

Tuesday October 18, 2011 13:50 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies

Every Palestinian detainee released in the first phase of the prisoners-swap deal between Israel and the Hamas movement, except those sent to Egypt, are now safely in Gaza and Ramallah. This article includes the speeches of President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, and Hamas leader, Hasan Yousef, standing next to him.

The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, held a conference to welcome the detainees back, and expressed to them that they "are freedom fighters: for God and the country.”

Abbas said that he hopes that all detainees in Israeli prisons will be freed, and will be able to return home.

The President further stated that the suffering and steadfastness of the detainees will never be wasted.

“You sacrificed, you struggled, and you will see the outcome of this struggle: a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Abbas said, “Your case was always our main focus around the world, we will continue to act for the release of all detainees.”

“God willing, we will soon see brother Marwan Barghouthi, brother Ahmad Saadat, Ibrahim Hamed, Abbas Al Sayyid, and every other detainee coming back home,” Abbas stated, and also wished speedy recovery for Ahmad Saadat, after his health condition deteriorates as he and the rest of the detainees continue their hunger-strike. Saadat is the secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

He also thanked Egypt for its role in the deal, and in the reconciliation agreement between Fateh and Hamas, adding that this deal was initiated by the detainees in Israeli jails, “who acted for the unity of their people.”

“Brothers and sisters, we are acting to achieve an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital. The future state will be in the 1967 borders, and Israel must stop all of its settlement activities and violations,” Abbas said, “I won't be telling a secret when I say that there is an agreement between us and Israel for the release of more detainees after this deal is concluded, therefore, we are asking them [Israel] to abide by their vows, if they give weight to their own promises."

“We are building the institutions of our future state, we have strong institutions, not found in other countries”, the president continued. “Brothers and sisters, your family and friends, wherever they are, are happy for you, for your release, but, let me say, that we owe all of this, after God, to all of the martyrs who have sacrificed themselves for our country”.

Standing next to Abbas, Hamas leader Hasan Yousef, stated in his speech which followed Abbas', that, “as much as we are happy for the release of the detainees, we are also in pain, because we still have brothers and sisters in Israeli jails,” and added that the Palestinian people will always act for the release of all detainees.

Yousef further stated that the Palestinian people have the capabilities to act for the release of all detainees, and that this prisoner-swap deal is a proof that resistance is an effective measure, to be conducted side-by-side with other venues of resistance and politics.

“Mr. President, we all came here to your home, representing all factions and segments of our society, to affirm our unity; we have no choice but to unite,” he started, “Mr. President, we all stand together, united, to counter the illegal Israeli policies that deny our legitimate rights. We want to thank Egypt, for its important local and regional role, and we want to thank every side that helped in achieving this deal. We want to thank The President and all Arab countries, we are all brothers, and we must send a special thank you to our people in the Gaza Strip”.

Thousands then started to chant: “With our soul and blood we sacrifice for Palestine,” and Yousef chanted with them.

In Gaza, Ismail Haniyya of Hamas, and several political and military leaders of the movement and other factions, welcomed the detainees who were sent to Gaza, and affirmed that the resistance fights for the liberation of its people, and has achieved victories.

Meanwhile, Cairo declared a state of emergency at the Cairo International Airport, as 40 of the released detainees will be flown out to Turkey, Qatar and Syria, as Israel stipulated in their release agreement.

It is worth mentioning that clashes were reported at the Betunia terminal leading to Ramallah, after the Israeli army closed the terminal when thousands of residents gathered there to welcome the detainees home.

The army used waste-water cannons and tear gas, to force the residents away, just after they removed the Red Cross from the scene.

There are approximately 5000 detainees who are still imprisoned by Israel; dozens of whom have been imprisoned for twenty years or more.

Shalit In Egypt, Interviewed By Egyptian TV

Tuesday October 18, 2011 12:35 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies

Egyptian TV has published an interview with released Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, after he was safely handed over to Egypt as part of the prisoner-swap deal.

In his interview, Shalit said that he was informed of his impending release only one week ago.

The soldier added that he would like to tell people about his years in captivity.

He further stated that Egypt's good relationship with the Hamas movement in Gaza, and the Israeli government, played an important role in the success of the deal.

When asked about what lessons he had learnt during his years of captivity, Shalit said that the most important lesson that could be learnt is that "achieving a prisoner-swap deal in a short time is..." and he stopped there. He seemed to be in good health, but seemed slightly overwhelmed.

When reminded about the thousands of Palestinians held by Israel for so many years, while he was held for five years, the interviewer asked directly: "Is it possible that you would lead a campaign to release all Palestinian detainees who are still in captivity?"

"I will be happy if they are released, to be able to go back home to their land and their parents; I will be happy if that happens," Shalit replied.

When asked about his plans for the future, Shalit expressed that he hoped this deal will help bolster the peace between Israel and Palestine.

Waleed Al Omary, head of the Al Jazeera TV office in Palestine, said that Shalit will first undergo a check-up, before being airlifted to a military base, where Israeli officials and his family will be waiting for him. Afterwards, he will be flown to a military base in Tel Aviv, before he finally heads back home.

Al Omary added that several buses and vehicles have transported the freed Palestinian detainees to border terminals, and that all 477 released detainees are either with the Red Cross, or with the Palestinians and Egyptians.

Officials of Hamas, the Al Qassam brigades, and various other factions and armed groups, welcomed the freed men and women, after the first bus carrying them entered the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas movement stated that any of the West Bank detainees who will not yet be allowed back home, will be staying in Gaza until such a time that they are finally allowed to return.

Clashes were reported at the Betunia terminal leading to Ramallah, after the Israeli army closed the checkpoint when thousands of residents, along with families of those released, gathered there to welcome the detainee's home.

The army said that nobody will be allowed to greet the detainees at the terminal, before forcing the Red Cross out of the area and proceeded to attack those who had gathered to welcome the freed men and women.

The army used waste-water cannons and fired tear gas to force the residents away, stating that the freed West Bank detainees will be sent to the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah, to be welcomed by President Mahmoud Abbas and other senior officials.

A total of ninety-six West Bank detainee men, and twenty-one women, arrived in Ramallah for the official ceremony. Sixteen detainees originally from Jerusalem were returned home there.

The first phase of the swap-deal includes the release of 477 Palestinian detainees, but the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reported recently that there are still more than 5000 Palestinian prisoners currently held in Israeli jails, including some 400 from the Gaza Strip.

Prisoner-Exchange Deal Officially Kicks Off

Tuesday October 18, 2011 09:49 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies

The prisoner-swap deal, signed between Hamas and Israel, has overcome the final hurdle after the Israeli High Court rejected all appeals filed against the deal by Israelis. Hundreds of detainees have been loaded onto buses and taken to various locations in preparation for their release, Egyptian sources have reported that Shalit is now in Egypt, and the freeing of the detainees can now get underway.

The deal will set 1,027 Palestinian detainees free in two phases in exchange for the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit. Media sources have reported that Shalit arrived in Egypt, when an SUV loaded with Palestinian fighters crossed the border and handed him over to Egyptian security forces, before returning promptly to their own lines.

Shalit will be returned home to Israel after the release of the first 477 detainees has been completed and confirmed.

The second phase will ensure the release of 550 detainees two months after the first phase is concluded.

The implementation of the first phase of the deal started at on Tuesday at dawn, when 96 detainees were moved from the Negev Detention Camp to the Ofer Prison, in preparation to be released into the West Bank.

Over 300 detainees were loaded onto buses that will drive them to the Karm Abu Salem Crossing between Israel and Gaza.

On Tuesday, around 4 AM, a bus loaded with 27 female detainees, sixteen detainees from Jerusalem, and three from the 1948 territories, drove off on its way to release them. Four female detainees were sent to Karm Abu Salem Crossing, while one detainee from the Golan Heights was moved to a local police station. Three detainees from the 1948 territories were moved to Majiddo Prison in preparation for their release.

On Monday evening the Israeli High Court rejected four appeals filed by Israelis against the deal, stating that the swap-deal is totally legal, and granting the deal a green-light.

Palestinian Minister of Detainees in the West Bank, Issa Qaraqe', stated that the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, will personally welcome the freed West Bank residents at his headquarters in Ramallah. Leaders of various factions and institutions will be attending the ceremony.

The Hamas movement in Gaza also concluded its preparations for welcoming the detainees who will be sent to Gaza. Around 163 detainees will be sent to the Rafah Border Terminal first, before heading into Gaza.

Unfortunately forty detainees will be forced into exile, while Hamas' Political Bureau head, Khaled Mashal, will be holding an official ceremony in Cairo to welcome them.

Israeli military and security sources reported that the army is preparing to counter any scenario that could jeopardize the deal, especially after Shalit is handed over to Egyptian security forces.

Before being sent back home, Israel intends to conduct a comprehensive medical checkup on Shalit. He will then be airlifted to a military base in Israel, where his parents will be waiting for him. He will likely receive another checkup, and undergo a thorough debrief at the second base, before his extensive ordeal will finally be over, and he is taken home to be with his family.

Israel will impose media restrictions at the base, in order to ensure privacy for Shalit and his family.

Shalit will be meeting Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu; Defense Minister, Ehud Barak; and Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz.

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