The day of the big prisoner swap [ok, yes, it's an "egregious" term]

23:55 pm: A Tweet from Turkish journalist @MahirZeynalov says that 11, not 10, Palestinian released prisoners has arrived in Ankara: “11 released Palestinian prisoners make sajdah right after they leave the plane in Ankara’s airport. Palestinian Amb. to Turkey met them”. UPDATE: The additional person appears to be a woman — perhaps the one [or one of the ones, but I think it was in the end only one] who refused to be sent to Gaza this morning, and Egypt reportedly agreed to take her. [If so, it must be Mariam al-Tarabeen, or Tarabini...] But, perhaps Egypt agreed to take her to the Cairo airport, on the condition that Turkey would be the ultimate destination, or receiving country.

21:15 pm: At least one of the Palestinian prisoners released today, a woman who is now in Gaza, was on the hunger strike that began on 27 September — Wafa al-Bis was hospitalized in Gaza tonight, according to a report by WAFA picked up and posted here. It seems that she was one of the women prisoners who initially refused to be released into Gaza, if I correctly understood earlier Tweet by @dimaeleiwa.

19:05 pm: Just realized, listening to replay of Noam Shalit’s remarks to public in Mitzpe Hila, he said his son Gilad suffers from lack of sunlight [that was kind of obvious today], from after-effects of shrapnel wounds [how did he get these shrapnel wounds?] , and from isolation — including because he did not speak the language and could not communicate with OTHER PRISONERS. What OTHER PRISONERS was Gilad Shalit held with?

18:15 pm:: Live event in Gaza, address by Hamas’ Ismail Haniyah shouting angrily — apparently in answer to criticism that Hamas has benefitted — by saying that all factions were consulted and involved, Palestinians are one people. Al Jazeera [+ some other TV channels] break away from Haniyeh speech just after he says Chris Bandak, a Palestinian Christian [from Bethlehem] who had been serving three [3] life sentences “is now here with us”. Al Jazeera International goes directly to public remarks being made in Mitzpe Hila in northern Israel by Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father, who mentioned that his son still suffers from shrapnel injuries [shrapnel? Couldn’t have been from the operation when he was captured, could it? Was it, instead, from IDF’s Operation Cast Lead? — there were reports he had been injured] and from having been in near-total isolation…

16:30 pm: IDF says Gilad Shalit has completed medical exams and will fly to family home in Mizpe Hila soon. Arrived after 17h00 — holding up well, greeted by crowd waving lots of large Israeli flags. Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister said that 10 released Palestinian prisoners are being flown from Cairo to Turkey — for 5-year stay! UPDATE: Palestinian TV reports on night news that the Turkish FM had a phone conversation today with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

13:30 pm: Wrote too soon: Israeli PM Netanyahu speaking now, somewhere, though I’m sorry I have no idea what he’s saying [in Hebrew] … Glad to learn that Shalit and his family didn’t have to stay to listen!

12:46 pm: I must say, in every appearance, Gilad Shalit looks like a lovely and very likeable person.

Gilad Shalit in uniform on 18 Oct - ID photo on Flikr This photo is posted by the IDF on their Flickr page, here.

12:30 pm: Thank God, after speeches, etc.. most of it is now over, and release was achieved, at least for some…

11:50 am: Palestinian TV shows Mahmoud Abbas standing in receiving line individually greeting released prisoners who then go in small groups to Arafat’s tomb to pray. Recorded music playing inside Muqata’a grounds, crowd waving flags, clapping or moving with music, but restrained, have not yet seen prisoners…

11:44 am: Released Palestinian prisoners reportedly arrive in Rafah and in Ramallah’s Muqata’a

11:30 am: Apparently, Palestinian prisoners released to West Bank were not seen at Ofer Prison, where friends and families were waiting, but instead taken to the terrible, awful, disgraceful Qalandia checkpoint. Those disappointed at Ofer reacted angrily, were then teargassed [via Twitter sources]

11:15 am: Palestinian TV now showing Egyptian TV interview w/ Gilad Shalit, in civilian clothes. Egyptian woman with British overlay on accent puts questions in English, Shalit answers in Hebrew… When she asks him why he was only allowed to communicate once with his family, he almost loses composure. She says ok, tries to move on… He reportedly says he missed his family and speaking with his friends, and also that in the future he hopes to work for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Then, Palestinian TV again showing split screens of Rafah and the Muqata’a field in Ramallah, Palestinians still waiting for arrival of released Palestinians.

11:09 am: Israeli air activity overhead now, again [heard in north Jerusalem]… not too far from Tel Nof air base…

11:05 am: An IDF soldier now Tweets that Shalit is in Israel — now confirmed by @SachaDratwa.

11:00 am: IDF French-lang. spox @SachaDratwa denies on Twitter that Shalit is on Israeli territory, yet [despite BBC Breaking News report a few minutes earlier…]

10:47 am: Palestinian TV still shows people waiting for arrival of released prisoners. PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is also head of the PLO, was scheduled to greet the prisoners being released into the West Bank at 10:00 — journalists were asked to be in the Muqata’a by 8:30 am, of course – though the notice anticipated that there could be some delay. The NYTimes has just reported here that five empty busses were waiting at Rafah crossing to receive the incoming prisoners [only about half of whom are actually from Gaza], and added that “Atallah Abu al-Sebah, Hamas’s minister of prisoners’ affairs, said the prisoners released in Gaza would first be greeted inside the Rafah crossing by 200 officials and up to four members of each prisoner’s family. There would be a ‘short official reception’, including the Palestinian national anthem. Mr. Sebah said that any prisoners who needed accommodation, including those who did not have families in the strip, would be put up in hotels for one month, irrespective of whether they were associated with Hamas, Fatah or other factions. They would then be moved to apartments being prepared for them around Gaza”…
The press release from Amnesty International mentioned below also says that “While the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip are internationally recognised as a single territorial unit under the Oslo Accords and international humanitarian law, the Israeli authorities do not allow Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip access to the West Bank or vice versa. These Palestinians will thus be entirely cut off from their family members with no possibility of visits. Finally, 41 prisoners, including one woman, will be exiled abroad. Most of them are serving life sentences. It is unclear whether they are being exiled permanently or will be allowed to return to their homes in the OPT at some point in the future. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from forcibly transferring or deporting people from an occupied territory. In the event that those prisoners being exiled abroad or transferred to Gaza from the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have not given their consent, Israel would be violating its obligations under international humanitarian law”…

10:34 am: – Palestinian TV still shows crowds waiting for prisoner release. A few minutes ago, IDF spox officially confirmed that “Sgt 1st Class” Shalit has been identified, prisoner exchange to begin. [Shalit was promoted three times by the IDF during his years in captivity, recently to Sgt Major, which must be what Sgt 1st Class means…] A Haaretz photo picked up from Egyptian TV video shows a stressed [understandably] Shalit. In addition to all the other sources of stress, most people involved in today’s events have probably been awake and up all night, perhaps for several days…

10:20 am: The BBC is live-blogging today’s events here, as “Mid-East Prisoner Exchange”. Via Twitter sources: Egypt has reportedly agreed to accept one or both of the Palestinian female prisoners who refused to be sent to Gaza.

10:00 am: A press release from Amnesty International says today’s events cast a “harsh light” on detention practices of all sides involved: “The prisoner exchange involving Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and 477 Palestinian prisoners highlights the need for the humane treatment of all detainees in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Amnesty International said today … Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director, said that “more needs to be done to protect the rights of thousands of others who remain in detention. The Israeli authorities, the Hamas de facto administration in Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank must seize this opportunity to ensure respect for the rights of all prisoners and detainees in their custody … International human rights standards and international humanitarian law guarantee every person deprived of liberty the right to humane and dignified conditions of detention, adequate medical care, and regular family visits … Israel, the Hamas de facto administration, and the Palestinian Authority must ensure that all detainees receive fair and prompt trials meeting international standards, and that judicial rulings on the release of detainees are implemented” … Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Hamas authorities not to treat Gilad Shalit as a hostage and a bargaining chip, in violation of their obligations under international humanitarian law. It has also consistently raised concerns with the Israeli authorities about the prison conditions of Palestinian detainees, and the fact that Israel continues to imprison Palestinians from the OPT inside Israel, in violation of its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Over 5,200 Palestinians from the West Bank – including East Jerusalem – and the Gaza Strip, which together comprise the OPT [occupied Palestinian territory, the term standardized by the International Court of Justice in its 2004 Advisory Opinion on the Legality of Israel’s Construction of The Wall], are currently detained in facilities run by the Israel Prison Service. The vast majority are detaiined inside Israel”. [Addameer Director Sahar Francis said at a PLO press conference in Ramallah last week that all Palestinian prisoners are held in Israeli jails under Israeli jurisdiction — she specifically noted that although Ofer military prison is in the West Bank, it is in an area that Israel considers to be part of the Greater Jerusalem Municipality.]

9:50 am: Shalit reportedly spoke fluent Arabic to Egyptian officials during transfer — good for him! This is reported in various places, including on +972 Magazine’s live blog of today’s events, here … BBC reports that Shalit has also just spoken to his parents [in Hebrew, for sure] on the phone…

9:34 am: Air activity overhead for past half-hour or so, heard one helicopter, several heavier planes. Palestinian TV showing split screen with live shots of people waiting at Rafah [Gaza] and Beitunia [West Bank].

9:29 am: Israeli TV reportedly informs its viewers that 2 female Palestinian prisoners are refusing to enter Gaza from the Kerem Shalom crossing. [[But three female names were given: Mariam al-Tarabeen [al-Arabiya] and “amna el saadi and qahera el saadat” [via Twitter sources] … later updated by @dimaeleiwa as follows: “Only wafaa el bis will come to #Gaza and mariam el tarabini will go to the #WB”… the fog of transfer…]] Also reported by Haaretz, herethe ICRC, as part of its role — and all sides have been using the ICRC this morning — must ask those slated for deportation/exile if they agree to this. If the Palestinian prisoners refuse to agree, it’s not clear what will happen

9:10 am: Everything has gone silent for about 30 minutes. Latest message says Shalit reportedly now in Israeli Army uniform. Richard Silverstein writes here on his blog, Tikkun Olam: “what’s missing from this picture? The fact that Israel, thanks to its superior military power, can apprehend those who kill its soldiers and civilians, throw them in jail and then release them if it chooses. Palestine has no such power to arrest Israeli settlers and soldiers who’ve killed Palestinian civilians. And until now, no international tribunal has been willing to do this either. There are as many or more Israelis with Palestinian blood on their hands as there are Palestinians with Israeli blood. The former, however, are not held accountable … The obsession with two Israeli prisoners to the exclusion of all else further displays the ethnocentrism of the world media. We care about Israelis facing such predicaments. Arabs, not so much. We care about Israeli victims of Palestinian terror. Palestinian victims of Israeli terror, not so much. If we care about terror and its victims, as we should, we must care about victims on both sides”. [But, ethnocentrism? Is that what it is?]

8:31 am: Shalit is still in Kerem Shalom undergoing Israeli evaluation, despite IDF spox email sent 15 minutes earlier in error saying he had left Kerem Shalom for reunion with his family at Tel Nof Airbase near Jerusalem.

7:59 am: “Now that Shalit is in Egypt, Israel releases Palestinian prisoners to ICRC custody”.

7:42: 16 Palestinian prisoners who will be released to East Jerusalem are on their way in heavily guarded convoy from Ofer Prison — “to Metzudat Adumim, for release at that point” — apparently this is “a police station near Maale Adumim, according to the Haaretz live blog of the swap, here, which also reports that “with this, the role of the Israel Prisons Service has ended”. But, has it? The Haaretz live blog also notes that “One prisoner will be moved taken to the Katzrin police [n.b. – this is in the Golan Heights, will someone be transferred by the ICRC through Israel-Syrian lines here, perhaps on the way to Jordan? If so, why not across the Allenby Bridge? No, someone must be going to Syria or some other place, perhaps Turkey?]; two prisoners will arrive at Ayalon Prison and will be released in Lod, and three prisoners that were moved to Megido Prison are residents of Wadi Ara” … The Haaretz live blog adds that “Female Palestinian terrorist Amna Muna, who was supposed to be deported abroad as part of prisoner exchange deal, will instead be deported to Gaza” — perhaps she told the ICRC that she did not agree to leave the oPt???

7:33 am: After many conflicting reports from various media and Hamas + Egyptian officials, Israel Radio confirms that Gilad Shalit is at Kerem Shalom “in Egyptian hands – out of Hamas captivity”.

6:44 am: report that International Committee of the Red Cross has confirmed that identification process for all prisoners slated for release has been completed.

Photo at Ofer Prison on day of big swap - by Orten Zvi of Activestills, posted on Flikr

A photo from Orten Zvi of Activestills is posted on Flickr, here. A Tweet says that an Israeli soldier inside Ofer Prison is telling the waiting Palestinian family and friends of prisoners being released that if they don’t take down the Palestinian flag they have put on the prison fence, the busses with prisoners will not leave the prison…

6:20 am: one or more busses of Palestinian prisoners waiting at Kerem Shalom crossing [at the Israeli-Egyptian Sinai border just south of Gaza, near where IDF soldier Gilad Shalit was captured in June 2006]. Others are at Ofer Prison + Army base near Beitunia, just south-west of Ramallah [this is clearly in the West Bank, but it is right on Israel’s Road 443, and Israel considers it to be in the Greater Jerusalem Municipal area…]

At 4:15 am, the first message arrived: Palestinian prisoners heading to West Bank release, other prisoners preparing.

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