Gilad Shalit deal: West Bank prepares to welcome Palestinians home
West Bank Palestinians whose family members are on the list of prisoners to be exchanged for Gilad Shalit are joyful. For those not on the list, it is bittersweet.
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“A large number of these prisoners will be deported away from their homes,” says Ms. Frances. “At the end, forced deportation [from a home country] is a violation of international law.”Skip to next paragraph
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While international rights organizations often criticized the treatment of Palestinians in Israeli jails and the complete incommunicado detention of Mr. Shalit in Gaza, few have commented the deal, which is regarded as a success by most in the international community.
About 200 male prisoners from Jerusalem, the rest of Israel, and the West Bank (plus one other female prisoner) will be deported. Most will be sent to Gaza, but 40 will be split between Egypt and Turkey. Some will be forbidden from ever returning to their homes and villages, but others will be allowed to return after three to five years.
Frances explains that it will be difficult for the families of those who are deported to see the freed prisoners because of the near impossibility for Palestinians with West Bank or Jerusalem identification to secure permits to visit Gaza and other Arab countries.
Israel says the deportation of these prisoners is necessary to ensure they are not able to commit further crimes.
“We did an evaluation to assess the risk of repeating terrorism for these prisoners,” says Neta Barak, a lawyer working in the pardons department of Israel’s Ministry of Justice. “The highest risk prisoners will be sent to Egypt or Turkey and the middle risk to Gaza. The rest are going home.”
The rest in prison
More than 4,000 others will remain in prison. Ala’a Saify’s brother, Ahmed, was arrested in 2009 after attacking a settler just west of his native Ramallah. Then 19, he was sentenced to 17 years in the nearby Ofer Prison for attempted murder.
“We heard about this deal, and my mother told me ‘quickly call your friends find out if your brother is on the list’,” says Mr. Saify. He ran to his computer and poured over the list – one, twice, three times – but Ahmed's name was not there.
Saify says he was disappointed, but not shocked. “This was Hamas’ VIP list. There were only about 45 Fatah prisoners out of over 400,” says Saify, whose family supports Hamas’s rival Fatah movement. “But really we don’t know why he’s not on the list. I can only guess.”
An additional 550 prisoners will be selected for release by Israel over the next two months. It will include all minors being held by Israel, and all but eight of the Palestinian women in detention, according to Frances, despite earlier reports that all women would be released.
The criteria for choosing these prisoners has not yet been defined, Barak says, but they will likely be those serving shorter sentences who “do not have blood on their hands.”
Many of the thousands remaining in Israeli prisons are serving multiple life sentences and are unlikely to be released alive unless their number is pulled for future prisoner swaps.
“We are not hopeful,” says Saify, whose brother was not released this time. “We can only wait and see.”