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Israel due to free 550 Palestinians in Shalit swap

No prisoner in the second release stage is convicted of killings contrary to the first one that included prisoners serving life sentences for deadly attacks

Reuters , Sunday 18 Dec 2011
Palestinians
Palestinian relatives of prisoner Younis Jahjouh decorate the street ahead of his release from Israeli prisons in the Qalandia refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, Dec 17, 2011. (Photo: AP)
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Israel plans to release 550 Palestinian prisoners on Sunday in the second stage of a deal with Hamas that brought home soldier Gilad Shalit after five years of captivity in the Gaza Strip.

While many of the 450 prisoners freed on Oct. 18 in the first phase of the Egyptian-brokered exchange were serving life sentences for deadly attacks, none in the second group was convicted of killings.

Israel's Supreme Court opened the way for Sunday's release to go ahead by turning down a petition on Friday from Israelis opposed to freeing the prisoners, whose terms ranged from a few months to 18 years.

The Prisons Service said nearly all the Palestinians to be freed after nightfall come from the West Bank, where Hamas's rival, the Fatah movement of Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas is dominant.

They were convicted of crimes that included attempted murder, planting bombs and membership of militant groups.

Shalit was abducted in June 2006 by militants who tunnelled into Israel from the Gaza Strip and surprised his tank crew, killing two of his comrades. He was held incommunicado in the Hamas-ruled territory and a huge majority of Israelis backed the deal that brought him home two months ago.

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