JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—Hamas announced today that three countries have agreed to take in the 40 Palestinian terrorists who are to be deported as part of the exchange deal for abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
The deputy head of the terrorist organization that has been holding Gilad incommunicado for five years, Moussa Abu Marzouk, named Turkey and Qatar as two of the three countries. The unnamed third country was Syria, according to the London-based Arab daily Al-Hayat.
The paper reported that Abu Marzouk and Hamas leader Khaled Meshal are to arrive in Egypt later today to welcome the 40 deportees.
Meanwhile, Israel coordinator David Meidan returned last night from Cairo after meeting with Egyptian officials to make final arrangements for the exchange, whose first phase is to take place on Tuesday with the release of Shalit for 477 terrorists. The remainder of the 1,027 Palestinian convicts is to be released over the next month.
The deal is expected to go through without hindrance, despite petitions against it by terror victims’ families. Four petitions are to be heard today by Israel’s High Court of Justice, which is expected to reject them outright.
Shalit’s parents asked to appear before the court to defend the deal for their son’s release. “Nobody knows what the impact of any delay, or any change, even the smallest, in the terms would be,” they wrote the court.
President Shimon Peres said this morning that all the paper work for commuting the terrorists’ sentences would be completed on time. He told reporters at the annual Succot reception in the open succa at Beit Hanassi that Shalit’s safety had to be weighed against the feelings of terror victims.
“The safety of each soldier is no less important than the safety of the nation as a whole, and the anguish of a family who lost loved ones to terror is also the anguish of the nation,” Peres said.
The president noted the country’s many difficult challenges in defending itself, but pointed out that there is another side of the coin. “Israel has confronted many problems, but also has enjoyed many successes,” said Peres.
“I’m always surprised that we have committees of inquiry regarding our problems, but no one has ever commissioned a committee of inquiry to investigate our successes. It’s time that we did,” he stated, “so that we can achieve a greater perspective balance when looking at our history.”
The president’s bureau said Peres has decided to add a statement to each terrorist’s commutation that he signs declaring that he neither forgets nor forgives the crimes, but that the sentence has been commuted for a specific reason.
Each commutation document will include details of the crime committed and the sentence handed down.
Peres paid tribute to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for agreeing to the prisoner deal in exchange for Shalit and praised the Shalit family for its unshakable determination to free him.