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Palestinian Swap

Gilad Shalit freed in Israeli-Palestinian prisoner swap

Courtesy: BBC News Middle East

Hamas has handed over Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to Egyptian mediators after five years’ captivity, as part of a prisoner swap deal with Israel, Hamas officials have told the BBC.

More than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners are due to be freed. The first 477 are being released on Tuesday.

Sgt Shalit was seized in 2006 by Hamas militants who tunnelled into Israel.

On Monday the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a bid by families of victims of militant attacks to delay the swap.

The day’s events are unfolding in a carefully choreographed sequence.

Early on Tuesday Gilad Shalit, 25, was taken to the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, to be handed over to Egypt in the presence of Israeli representatives.

Israeli Defence Forces later confirmed they had identified he was alive and well.

Egyptian TV showed footage of Sgt Shalit being escorted from a vehicle in Egypt. It was the first time he had appeared in a video since 2009.

Earlier, sources told the BBC that Hamas guards were still with Sgt Shalit, and would only withdraw when all the Palestinian prisoners to be released had left Israel.

Sgt Shalit is then to be transferred to the Kerem Shalom crossing between Egypt and Israel.

After he has made a phone call to his parents and undergone a brief medical examination, he will be flown by helicopter to the Tel Nof airbase in Israel.

He will be undergoing further checks at Tel Nof, where he will meet members of his family, as well as Mr Netanyahu.

If he is fit, Sgt Shalit will then be flown with his family to northern Israel and escorted by a convoy to his home town of Mitzpe Hila, in the western Galilee.

While this is going on, the first of 477 Palestinian prisoners destined for Gaza or exile abroad are to cross into Egypt from Kerem Shalom, a 10-minute drive from Rafah.

Early on Tuesday, a large convoy of inmates left a prison in the south of Israel while a smaller group left another in the centre of the country – both under heavy security.

The remaining 550 are scheduled to be released next month.