The second phase of the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap, which will see the release of another 550 prisoners, will be completed in the next two weeks, with Israel seeking to use the occasion to boost Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ status.
Sources familiar with the issue told Ynet that officials in Jerusalem are seeking to link the upcoming prisoner release to a previous Israeli pledge to Abbas, whereby Israel will release Fatah detainees rather than Hamas prisoners.
In recent weeks, Palestinian officials claimed that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged to release Fatah prisoners following the completion of the Shalit deal, as not to boost Hamas’ status among the Palestinian public in the wake of the swap.
Senior Palestinian Authority figure Saeb Ereket recently claimed that ex-PM Olmert agreed to testify before the International Quarter that he pledged to free such prisoners following the Shalit swap.
Meanwhile, Hamas’ prisoner affairs minister said that his movement was assured by Egypt that the second phase of the Shalit deal will be completed by December 18, precisely two months after the first part of the Israel-Hamas swap. In the first phase, Hamas released the captive Israel soldier in exchange for 450 detainees belonging to various Palestinian groups.