Egypt has secured the release of 550 members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party in a prisoners swap it mediated between Israel and Hamas, an Egyptian diplomat said on Friday, as an Israeli group representing victims of Palestinian attacks petitioned a court to delay the deal.
Egypt succeeded in persuading Israel to release “550 prisoners from Fatah who will be handed to (Abbas) after two months,” the diplomat, speaking on background, told reporters, according to AFP.
The Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza will release soldier Gilad Shalit, captured in 2006, next week in exchange for at least 450 Palestinian prisoners the same week and 550 others within two months.
Israel, which will decide on the prisoners in the second group, has not yet announced their names but the Egyptian diplomat said his country had insisted since 2007 that they be Fatah members.
The diplomat added his country alone had mediated the exchange and German mediation had ended “some months ago.”
“The German role had failed and ended some months ago,” he said.
The head of the German intelligence service (BND) indicated that his agents played a part in the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, hailing the operation as a “huge success.”
Boosting status of Hamas
The exchange could boost the status of Hamas, which violently ousted Fatah from Gaza in 2007 after winning an election, versus its Fatah rivals in the West Bank.
But, despite its assurances, it has failed to include popular Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti in the exchange, as well as leftist militant Ahmed Saadat, whose group assassinated a far right Israeli government minister.
Several dozen of the released prisoners are to be exiled from their homes, a controversial point among Palestinians.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh described the deal as a “victory for Gaza” in a speech following Friday prayers. He said he expected the deal to be done on Tuesday, which he said would be a “national and historic day of joy,” Reuters reported.
Israel is set to publish the official list of prisoners it will free late on Saturday or early on Sunday. It has already said that almost 300 of them are men are serving life terms.
After the list is released on the Israel Prisons Authority web site, there will be a 48-hour period during which the Supreme Court can hear legal objections.
An Israeli group representing victims of Palestinian attacks petitioned a court on Friday to delay the deal.
In a petition to Israel’s High Court, the Almagor terror victims association said that under the current timetable, the victims’ families would not have sufficient time to examine the names of prisoners set for release and prepare an appeal.
The names of nine Israelis were listed on the petition.
The court has in the past not overturned government decisions to free prisoners involved in militant attacks against Israelis.
But Almagor is hoping to succeed, due to the different nature of the current agreement, and is hoping to secure at least four to five days for a serious examination of the list, the petition states.
“The decision (to approve the deal) was not the result of deliberation, rather of a successful campaign created with advertising agencies, and the pressure of one family on the government,” Almagor head Meir Indor told AFP.
“This is something that the court -- which is in charge of law and order -- should intervene against, since it is the destruction of the law and order in Israel.”
Indor also noted that unlike past deals in which Israel used the release of prisoners as a diplomatic incentive, this time there could be no such claim.