Israel Freeing 1K Palestinians to Bring Soldier Home

Government strikes deal with Hamas for Gilad Shalit

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 12, 2011 1:41 AM CDT

(Newser) – After more than five years as a captive of Palestinian militants, soldier Gilad Shalit will be home within days, the Israeli government says. Shalit, now 25, was 19 when he was captured during a cross-border raid in 2006, and his captivity has long been an emotional issue in Israel. To secure his release, the Israeli government has promised Hamas that it will free 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, close to a fifth of all Palestinians held by Israel, the BBC reports.

Several high-profile Palestinian prisoners, whose release had long been a sticking point in negotiations, will not be freed as part of the deal, which was approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet. Around 450 prisoners—including 280 serving life sentences—will be released now and 550 more will be freed in two months. "The security establishment finds this release very difficult," admits the chief of Israel's Shin Bet security agency. "It's not a good deal, but, on the other hand, it's the only way if we want to bring him home."

Gilad Shalit's parents, Aviva and Noam, talk in a protest tent set up outside the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem.   (Getty Images)
This undated photo rprovided by the Shalit family, shows Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, then 19, at an unknown location in Israel.   (AP Photo/HO-File)
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