Meidan: Details of prisoner exchange have been finalized
Hamas to hand Shalit over to Red Cross; parents will wait for him at air force base.
On Sunday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved the details of the prisoner swap that will return soldier Gilad Shalit, which is to be set in motion Monday night and is expected to bring Shalit home to Israel Tuesday morning.
Final details were worked out on Sunday in Cairo between the prime minister's special envoy, David Meidan, and Egyptian intelligence officials.
According to the plan, 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 he 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 477 prisoners due to be released will be brought tomorrow 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 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.
The IDF is aware, however, that photos will likely be released before this by Hamas and/or the Egyptians.
No hitches expected
Jerusalem does not believe Hamas will raise any last-minute hitches, despite complaints by the organization that eight female Palestinian and Arab prisoners of whom they were not aware had not been included in the deal. On Sunday, Hamas' Mahmoud Zahar told Channel 10 that "to the best of our knowledge, as of now there are no obstacles" to completing the exchange.
Asked about Shalit's condition, he said, "If we wanted to act vengefully, we would have taken it out on the prisoner, but we are better than the Israelis."
The spokesman for Hamas' military wing, Abu Obeida, said on Sunday that Israeli and Egyptian representative would meet once a year to discuss the 40 prisoners who are going to be expelled to other countries. According to him, some of those expelled will be allowed to return to their homes in the West Bank after several years of exile.
Deflecting Palestinian criticism over the number of expellees, he said that Israel had originally demanded that 260 of the released prisoners be exiled, and Hamas managed to get the number down to 40.