The first phase of the Shalit prisoner swap began on early morning Tuesday, with captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit being transferred to Egypt in return for 450 Palestinian prisoners loaded on buses preparing to enter the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
According to latest reports, two female Palestinian prisoners including Amna Muneh refused to enter Gaza but then relented, while Shalit met with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Shalit also spoke with his parents, saying he was in good health, and reportedly did not need a translator to speak to Egyptian TV as he was fluent in Arabic. No released Palestinian prisoner has been yet able to speak to relatives, but Palestinian officials are preparing to meet them in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.President Mahmoud Abbas awaits the roughly 100 prisoners due to be released in the West Bank in the city of Ramallah, while Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh is in Gaza City, reportedly preparing a welcoming party of 500,000, in which he will sit alongside the 297 Palestinian prisoners released to the Gaza Strip.
According to al-Jazeera, Hamas has promised that all the prisoners released into Gaza will be provided with an apartment, a car, and a salary for life. Only 133 of the nearly 300 prisoners going to Gaza hail from the Strip. A further 40 Palestinian prisoners will be deported abroad, with 15 going to Syria, 15 to Turkey, and 10 to Qatar.