Israel has made public the names of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners it will free in exchange for soldier Gilad Shalit as part of a deal it reached with Hamas.
Israelis who oppose the freeing of the prisoners, some serving life sentences for deadly attacks, now have 48 hours to appeal to the country’s highest court to prevent the release.
The court is not expected to intervene, however. The deal was approved on Tuesday by a large majority in the government and has broad public support.
Shalit was captured in June 2006 by Palestinian militants who tunnelled into Israel from the Gaza Strip. He has been held in the Hamas-ruled territory ever since.
The repatriation of captured soldiers, alive or dead, has long been an emotionally charged issue for Israelis. Many have served in the military and see their return as sacrosanct. But they also feel a sting over the release of convicted killers.
The first phase of the prisoner swap involves 450 men and 27 women. Another 550 will be released in about two months, according to officials familiar with the Egyptian-mediated deal.
Some prisoners originally from the West Bank will be sent to the Gaza Strip and other prisoners will be exiled abroad.
One Israeli group opposed to the deal, the Almagor Terror Victims’ Association, said the release would lead to further violence and abduction attempts and robs victims of the right to live in peace.
Israel’s Prison Service posted the list of those to be let out on its website.
Among the more prominent names is Ahlam Tamimi, who worked as a reporter with a local television station before joining the Hamas armed wing. She received 16 life sentences for helping choose places for suicide attacks and was accused of taking bombers to some of the locations, including a Jerusalem pizzeria in 2001, where 15 people were killed.
Also to be released is Mohammed Al-Sharatha, a leader of the Hamas special elite fighting unit “101” which kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in 1989. The two soldiers were killed. Sharatha was arrested in 1989 and sentenced to three life terms and a separate 30-year-term.