Shalit - Eliyahu Hershkovitz - June 25, 2011
Protesters in a rally, June 25, 2011. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz
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Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, due to be released Tuesday as part of a high-profile prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas, has been promoted to the rank of sergeant-major, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced Monday.

Shalit held the rank of corporal when he was snatched on June 25, 2006, and has been promoted twice during his captivity, to sergeant and to staff-sergeant.

Israel and Hamas sealed a deal last week through Egyptian mediation that will see Shalit freed in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, many of them involved in masterminding or carrying out terror attacks against Israelis.

The High Court of Justice convened on Monday to hear the petitions of Israelis opposed to releasing the prisoners, but it is not likely that the court will agree to intervene in the deal.

The first stage of the prisoner exchange is expected to go into effect on Tuesday morning.

According to the schedule, Hamas will bring Shalit from Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula through the Rafah crossing and deliver him into the hands of the International Red Cross and Egyptian officials. From there, after a short procedure to confirm his identity, Shalit will be brought into Israeli territory.

From there Shalit will be brought to a nearby army base for a medical examination, dressed in an IDF uniform, and allowed to call his parents, who will be waiting for him at the Tel Nof Air Base.

Shalit will then be flown to Tel Nof, where he will be reunited with his family, and be greeted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Barak and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. He will undergo a more comprehensive medical exam there.
The entire Shalit family will then be flown by helicopter to their home in the Galilee village of Mitzpeh Hila.
The swap operation will be under the command of Operations Division commander Brig. Gen. Koby Barak.

The first 477 prisoners due to be released will be brought Tuesday morning to the border area with Egypt and to the Ofer military camp near Ramallah, where police and Israel Prison Service wardens will wait for the first sign of life from the Shalit handover in Sinai.

Once the signal is received, the release of the prisoners will begin. The first group, whose members are to be released to Gaza or expelled to other countries, will go first to Egypt, while a group of female prisoners will be brought to the Beituniya crossing point near Ramallah and handed to the IRC.

The rest of the 550 prisoners are expected to be released in about two months.

The Palestinian Authority has invited all the prisoners who are released from Ofer to the Muqata in Ramallah for a festive reception in the presence of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli Arab prisoners and those who are East Jerusalem residents will be released by the police.

From the moment Shalit is brought into Israel, he will be photographed only by IDF photographers and those of the Government Press Office, which will release photos to the media after Shalit meets his family. The Tel Nof Air Base will be closed to the press.