Palestinians celebrate the prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel, in the West Bank city of Nablus Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011. It is expected that Hamas will free the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners within a week. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s president on Saturday began the process of formally pardoning hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who are to be exchanged for an Israeli soldier held by Gaza militants for five years.
A spokeswoman for President Shimon Peres said he received the files of hundreds of prisoners set for release in the first phase of the deal and has 48 hours to sign the pardons. The swap will likely happen Tuesday.
Under the deal, 1,027 Palestinians — including some behind attacks on Israelis — will be released in two stages in return for Sgt. Gilad Schalit, who was captured by Hamas-backed militants in a 2006 cross-border raid.
Israel has agreed to uneven prisoner exchange deals for decades. This swap, however, is the most lopsided to date. Critics say it encourages more abductions, is unjust to families of those killed in attacks and also poses the risk that freed militants will return to violence.
The list of prisoners included in the deal was officially released publicly early Sunday morning, and in a Login to read more