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Haniyeh: Gaza paid 'dear price' to free prisoners

Oct. 14, 2011 3:45 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 16, 2011 1:50 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Reuters) -- Days ahead of a prisoner swap deal with Israel, the prime minister of the Palestinian government in Gaza said the people there paid a "dear price" to free detainees.

Ismail Haniyeh said Friday that "Our people today will harvest the fruit of one destination of Jihad and steadfastness.

"Gaza has paid a dear price of blood and martyrs and agonies in actions the occupation had carried under the slogan of freeing Shalit," Haniyeh told a crowd of worshipers before prayers in a Gaza City mosque.

"The great Palestinian people paid all that price in order to free the prisoners because we believe that the value of man is derived from the value of the homeland."

The prisoner swap set to take place on Oct. 18, over three years in the making, was finally brokered last week with Egyptian mediation between Israel and the Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

Over 1,000 Palestinian detainees will be freed in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Gaza militants in a cross-border raid in 2006.

Some 450 Palestinian men and 27 women are due to be freed in the first phase of the swap, with Shalit expected to be handed over to Israel simultaneously. A further 550 Palestinians will be released in two months.

An official in the Popular Resistance Committee's military wing released a list of prisoners it says Israel agreed to free in exchange for Shalit. It has not been verified by Israel or Hamas.

Israel is set to publish the list of prisoners it will free late on Saturday. It has already said that almost 300 of them are men are serving life terms.

After the list is released on the Israel Prisons Authority web site, there will be a 48-hour period during which the Supreme Court can hear legal objections.

Families of the Israeli victims have said they will protest, but this is not expected to halt the swap, which has broad political and public support in Israel.

There are at least 6,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. They are regarded as heroes in their struggle against Israeli occupation and quest for statehood.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report

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