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Hamas: Next phase of swap deal 'by Dec. 18'

Nov. 29, 2011 3:06 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 30, 2011 8:34 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel will release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners by Dec. 19 in the second phase of a captive swap deal, a senior Hamas official said Tuesday.

Israel agreed to release 1,027 prisoners in exchange for an Israeli soldier in a deal reached with Hamas in October. On Oct. 18, 477 prisoners were freed and soldier Gilad Shalit was released.

Salih Arouri told the Hamas-affiliated news site Palestine Information Center that Israel agreed to release a second group of 550 prisoners within two months.

"The agreement literally reads that Israel will release 550 security prisoners within two months after the first phase of the deal in coordination with the Egyptian side.

"By 18 or 19 December, the two-month delay comes to an end, and so the next phase must be completed. We will ask the Egyptian side to make sure Israel will adhere to the agreement," said Arouri, who is charged with overseeing the swap.

Arouri said that according to the agreement, the detainees to be released should be security prisoners and they should all be freed to their homes, and not into exile.

He added: "We have provided the Egyptian mediators with lists of prisoners who suffer illnesses and elderly prisoners who have already served long terms. The Egyptians will deliver these lists to the Israelis."

Regarding female detainees, the Hamas official said only nine women prisoners remained in Israeli custody after the first release in October, but noted that Israeli forces had since arrested an additional woman. Arouri called for her inclusion in the swap deal.

Israel breached an agreement to release all female prisoners in the first phase of the deal, Arouri said, adding that remaining women prisoners should be released immediately and not as part of the second release.

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