* List includes prisoners involved in attacks that killed
* Officials expect first phase of swap deal on Tuesday
By Maayan Lubell
JERUSALEM, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Israel took the first steps on
Sunday in a prisoner swap with Hamas in which hundreds of
Palestinian militants will be exchanged for captive Israeli
soldier Gilad Shalit.
The swap is expected to take place on Tuesday and should
bring to a close a saga that has obsessed Israelis for five
The gate of a prison in northern Israel swung open on Sunday
morning and three heavily guarded vehicles drove out carrying 15
Palestinian female inmates -- some making V-for-victory signs --
to another jail to await their release along with 12 other women
and 450 male prisoners in the trade.
Israel's Prison Service posted a list of the 477 prisoners
due to go free, along with Shalit, in the first stage of the
Egyptian and German-brokered deal, opening the way for anyone
opposed to their release to file a legal appeal within 48 hours.
"Unless the Supreme Court intervenes, or someone in Gaza
goes nuts, it appears the deal will go through in two days,"
Yaakov Amidror, national security adviser for Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Army Radio.
Those on the release roster included Palestinians jailed for
attacks in which dozens of Israelis were killed. At least five
prisoners have been in jail since their teens.
Gaza's Hamas Islamist rulers prepared a heroes' welcome for
295 of the prisoners due to be sent to the territory. Workmen
hammered together an open-air stage and streets were decorated
with Hamas and Palestinian flags.
"I am so happy I do not know what I will do, how will I hold
him? It's been 20 years," said the mother of Naseem al-Kurd, a
Hamas member who was sentenced in 1992 to eight life sentences
for attacks that killed Israelis.
Workers readied an apartment for Kurd in Gaza, painting
walls and repairing doors.
Shalit, a tank crewman captured in 2006 by militants who
tunnelled into Israel from the fenced-off Gaza Strip and
spirited him into the enclave, was expected to be handed over in
Egypt's adjacent Sinai desert and flown to Israel.
Israel, which withdrew troops and settlers from the Gaza
Strip in 2005, tightened its blockade of the territory after
Shalit was seized.
The repatriation of captured soldiers, alive or dead, has
long been an emotionally charged issue for Israelis, many of
whom have served in the military. But they also feel a sting
over the release of convicted killers.
Photos of Shalit's father, raising an Israeli flag over the
roof of the family home, featured prominently in Israeli
newspapers on Sunday.
An opinion poll by Channel 10 TV showed the exchange was
backed by two-thirds of Israelis. Shalit, now 25, was last seen,
looking pale and thin, in a 2009 video shot by his captors.
One Israeli group opposed to the deal, the Almagor Terror
Victims' Association, said the exchange would lead to more
violence and abduction attempts. The Supreme Court will hear its
appeal on Monday.
"The judges should explain to terror victims how they allow
Israelis to be murdered and (for the killers) to be released.
They should look them in the eyes and explain," Meir Indor, head
of Almagor, told Israeli television.
Gila Edri-Dekel, whose brother Sharon was abducted and
killed by Palestinian militants in 1996, said her family has
been in a state of angst since hearing that her brother's
killers were to be released in the swap.
"To see the number of prisoners released, to see his killers
released, it is another punishment for my mother," Edri-Dekel
told Army Radio.
For Palestinians, prisoners held by Israel are revered
fighters against occupation in a quest for a Palestinian state.
The deal with Hamas, a group classified by the United States
and European Union as a terrorist organisation over its refusal
to recognise Israel and renounce violence, is not expected to
have a direct impact on efforts to revive Middle East peace
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been pursuing U.N.
recognition of Palestinian statehood in the absence of
negotiatiions with Israel that collapsed 13 months ago in a
dispute over settlement-building in the occupied West Bank.
President Shimon Peres received on Saturday the details of
the 477 prisoners to be released in the first stage of the
exchange, and he is expected to sign their pardons by Tuesday,
his spokeswoman said.
The second phase calls for the release of 550 Palestinian
prisoners. In all, there are some 6,000 Palestinians in Israeli
(Writing by Maayan Lubell; Additional reporting by Ari
Rabinovitch in Jerusalem and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing
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