In the second phase of the prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas, Tel Aviv is expected to free 550 more Palestinian prisoners within the next few days.
The agreement has already resulted in the release of 477 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held captive for five years. That first exchange took place in October, and Israel had agreed to release a total of 1,027 within two months.
Israel is expected to publish the names of the Palestinians on Thursday and they are expected to be freed on Sunday. The prisoners, some of whom are children and minors, are reportedly serving sentences for “security offenses,” not for violent attacks or for being part of either Hamas or Islamic Jihad.
The prisoner exchange deal, however, is not a sign of improving relations or of improving Israeli policies towards the Palestinians. The Israel Defense Forces apply what is called the administrative detention policy, which allows Palestinian political prisoners to be held for six months without charge or trial. Detention orders can be renewed every six months.
“It’s a primitive and racist way to hold a trial,” Qadura Fares, the president of the Palestinian Society Prisoners’ Club in Ramallah, told InterPress Services in August, “and no civilized country in the world uses such methods. Needless to say, Israel’s legal system could never do this to an Israeli Jew. Even the Israeli settlers who carry out acts of terror against Palestinians in the West Bank are not treated in this manner.”
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