Egypt released suspected Israeli spy Ilan Grapel on Thursday, as part of a prisoner exchange between the two counties. He is still in Egyptian custody, but will be handed over to Israeli authorities and meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later in the day.
In exchange for Grapel, Israel is releasing 25 Egyptian prisoners from Ella Prison. The prisoners, nine of whom were incarcerated for drug smuggling and nine others for weapons charges, are currently being driven to the Taba crossing where they will be released, according to CNN.
Most of the Egyptian prisoners are Bedouins from the Sinai Peninsula. Three of them are minors, three have already completed their sentences and five were scheduled to be released within two months time, Haaretz reported
The 27-year-old American-Israeli was arrested in Cairo in June. Egyptian officials claimed that Grapel attended protests in Tahrir Square in order to incite protestors to violence, and spread chaos in the Egyptian public and harm the state's political, economic and social interests.
Cairo's Tahrir Square was the focal point of the Egyptian popular revolt which ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February.
Additionally, Egyptian intelligence services said they have been conducting a covert investigation on Grapel, concluding that Grapel had been assigned by Mossad (the Israeil spy agency) to collect intelligence during the revolution.
Grapel, who studied International Relations at Johns Hopkins University and is currently a law student at Emory Law School, served as a paratrooper for the Israeli army in the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah.
After his arrest, friends and family told the Jeruselum Post that Grapel was very pro-Arabic and liked hanging out in Egypt. Grapel's father told Ynet that his son was sent to Egypt as part of his studies.
The cost of Grapel's release, as well as the importance of the prisoners involved are significantly smaller than they were for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier released by Hamas ten days ago, after five years in Palestinian custody.
The Shalit exchange involved over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, many of whom were convicted murderers and terrorists service multiple life sentences. As part of the deal, Hamas was allowed to hand-select the nearly 500 prisoners who were released in the first stage of the exchange.
Among those released prisoners was Muhammad al-Sharatha, who up until Tuesday had been serving three life sentences for his role in the abduction and murder of two Israeli soldiers in 1989, according to CNN. Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences, was also set free. Barghouti had been convicted of multiple murders relating to the Second Intifada, which he is said to have helped organize.
Shailt returned home on Oct. 18, after being sent from the Gaza Strip through Egypt and then finally into Israel, where he was reunited with his family.
A similar deal has been on the table for years, but after the most recent negotiations, which took place with the help of Egyptian mediators, Hamas and Israel finally reached an agreement, allegedly without actually speaking to one another. (They used Egypt as a go-between, possibly so that Israel can still claim not to negotiate with terrorists.)
Shalit was 19 when he was captured by Palestinian militants in 2006. As an enlisted soldier, Shalit was guarding an Israeli army outpost near the Kerem Shalom kibbutz on the Gaza Strip-Israel border when he was attacked and taken prisoner.