He continued to say that Hamas has reached a deal with Israel that day to release more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails in exchange for the captive soldier Gilad Shalit who was captured in 2006 and has since been held in the Gaza Strip.
Messhal pointed out that the deal includes 27 female prisoners and will be in two phases. The first will see the release of 450 prisoners within a week and in the second phase another 550 will be freed over the following two months.
He added, *”The result of negotiations with Israel is giving the priority to those who have spent over 20 years in jail and the swap deal list includes 315 prisoners who have been sentenced to life.”*
An Egyptian official affirmed that the prisoner swap deal was brokered after marathon efforts by Egypt. He said, * “After 64 months of tough negotiations we were able to complete the deal. It was a very difficult task which included thousands of hours of negotiations.”*
According to the list of the prisoners, Israel did not agree on the release of two high-profile prisoners, Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah leader, and Ahmed Sa’adat, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Jabber Weshah, former prisoner and Deputy Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said, *”We are all happy for the prisoners, but still our happiness is mixed with sorrow because of the other prisoners which the swap deal does not involve.”*
Weshah added, *”There are more than 7000 prisoners in Israeli prisons, waiting for their freedom as well, among them hundreds of prisoners that suffer from bad medical treatment and their lives and health are increasingly at risk.”*
He pointed out that this swap deal was supposed to be activated six years ago, but it came too late because of Israeli procrastination and failure of negotiations all these years.
Joe Carton, International Activist and member of the International Solidarity Movement, said: *”Tuesday was a very great day, This news was the best news that Gazans have had in years, but our happiness is still incomplete as 7000 Palestinian prisoners are in Israeli prisons, still waiting for their freedom as well.”
He expressed his hope that this swap deal will be the first step in the way of freedom for all Palestinian prisoners.
Carton added, “We have gone on a solidarity hunger strike with the Palestinian prisoners and we are going to continue this until achieving the prisoners’ demands.”*
Mother of the 18-year-sentenced prisoner, Rami Anbar, said *”I can’t wait to see my son again. For ten years I didn’t know anything about him as all contact with him was banned.”*
It is worth mentioning that the swap deal coincides with the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike against the Israeli bad treatment of prisoners, including those inmates in Nafha, Ashkelon, Ofer and Eishel prisons. The demand is that all prisoners be removed from isolation and that conditions are improved.
There are currently 8,200 Palestinian prisoners and detainees being held in Israeli jails. Among them are 400 minors and, 33 women.