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With Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange finished, attention turns to security

With many of the Palestinians released in the prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit going to the West Bank, focus will now be on ensuring that Israeli-Palestinian violence stays at its current low level.

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"It's conceivable there will be a wave of popular support for Hamas, and the security forces will be reluctant to intervene,’’ Mr. Alpher says. "Is it manageable or could it get get out of hand? It’s difficult to predict what is going to happen here."

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He added that ever since the announcement of a reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah, which was never implemented, the PA security forces have been more lenient.

Concern behind the separation wall

The number of wanted militants has been whittled down significantly in recent years, according to Israeli military officials. In the days since the announcement of the deal, security officials have agreed with Netanyahu's assessment that the risk of releasing the prisoners is a manageable one.

"In terms of the assessment of Israel’s ability to prevent terrorist from attacks, there’s much more confidence," says Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar Ilan University.

However, although the release is supported by a broad majority of the Israeli public, many Jewish settlers living in the West Bank, where there is no separation wall intended to keep out potential terrorists, say they fear that the agreement will reenergize the militants who embarked on a campaign of violence against Israeli targets during the second Intifada.

As a precaution, Israel insisted in the agreement that 170 prisoners who hail from the West Bank would be deported to the Gaza Strip. Another 40 were deported to Egypt and eventually to Turkey, Qatar, and Syria. Israel rejected Hamas demands that a handful of its most senior military leaders be released.

"The last 10 years have been terrible," said Chaya Rund, a resident of the Jewish settlement of Ofra, northeast of Ramallah. "We don’t want to go back to that."

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