Among the 477 Palestinian prisoners that Israel had agreed to release as the first step to gain the freedom of captured Israeli soldiers Gilad Shalit are convicted murderers who were serving multiple life sentences for their crimes.
A total of 1027 Palestinians will ultimately be released as part of the unprecedented agreement between Hamas and the Israeli government.
The imminent release of Sgt. Shalit (who was seized by the Palestinian militant group Hamas in 2006), has raised much controversy in Israel, particularly among the families of Israelis who were killed by some of the prisoners who will soon be let out of jail. Critics charge Israel is giving up too much in return for just one man.
Israelis who oppose the deal have 48 hours in which to appeal the highest court’s decision to free the prisoners – however, according to reports, the agreement enjoys the support of most of the Israeli public.
According to reports that among the first batch of prisoners to be released are Nasser Yataima, who assisted in the bombing of a hotel in Netanya in 2002 – an act that killed 30 people. Walid Anjes, another soon-to-be-freed Palestinian, helped to bomb the Moment cafe in Jerusalem in 2002, killing 11 people.
Other key prisoners to be freed include Yehia Sanwar, a founder of Hamas militant wing who was serving multiple life sentences; and Jihad Yaghmour, who helped to execute Israeli soldier Nachson Waxman in 1994.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted that some of the other prisoners on the list include Yussuf Dhib Hamed Abu Aadi, who was convicted of stabbing Israeli soldier Nir Kahana at the Qalandiya checkpoint in 2005 and serving life in prison; and Nahid Abd al-Rauf al-Fakhuri, who recruited suicide bombers and Hebron and was sentenced to 22 years in jail.
According to Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, more than 100 of the prisoners are “hard core militants, serving multiple life-sentences for high-casualty suicide bombings - one life-sentence for each fatality in the attacks they were convicted of helping to plan and implement.”
The initial 477 inmates to be released includes 27 women, including Ahlam Tamimi, who was convicted for having participated in a 2001 suicide bombing of a Jerusalem restaurant, which killed 15 people.
Three prominent prisoners will not be released. They include Marwan Barghouti, a militant leader who is serving multiple life sentences; Abdullah Barghouti, a Hamas bombmaker who is also serving multiple life sentences; and Ahmed Saadat, who was convicted for assassinating Israel’s tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi in 2001.
According to Israeli Ministry of Justice, 131 male prisoners will returned to their homes in Gaza (which is ruled by Hamas); another 110 male prisoners will be sent to either Judea & Samaria or East Jerusalem. Forty will be sent abroad and only six will be sent to Israel.