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Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.imemc.org, for Tuesday October 18th, 2011
Envoys of the Middle East Quartet have announced plans to meet members of both sides separately later this month, and Gilad Shalit has been released first to Egypt, and back home to Israel, where he met the Prime Minister and his parents, these stories and more coming up; so stay tuned.
Envoys of the Middle East Quartet will be holding separate meetings with Palestinian and Israeli officials in Jerusalem, Oct.26. They will attempt to reinvigorate the fledgling peace process.
Chief Palestinian Negotiator, Dr. Saeb Erekat, claimed that he had not been informed of such a meeting, but added that Palestine side has no qualms at meeting members of the Quartet.
He added that he meets with member of the Quartet regularly, and they have nothing new to offer, until as such a time that Israel halts its settlement activities.
This seems highly unlikely, due to Israel’s recent announcement of 2,610 housing units to be built in illegally annexed East Jerusalem, with another 1590 units after they are complete.
Hamas political leader Mahmoud Zahhar has told the Israeli Daily Newspaper, Haaretz, that the prisoner-swap deal between Hamas and Israel includes lifting the siege of the Gaza Strip.
Zahhar insisted that Israel will have to ease the restrictions on the border terminals, including travel between the costal enclave and the West Bank, along with incorporating an increase in the exports of the Gaza strip to Israel and abroad.
The deal stipulates that the Israel has to improve the conditions of the Palestinian detainees, and that family members from the Gaza Strip will be able to visit loved ones.
Meanwhile, officials at the Israeli Defence Ministry stated that the Shilat deal represents a shift in the relations between Israel and Hamas.
All of the first 477 to be freed are now safely in Gaza and Ramallah- with exception of those who are t be exiled; they are now in Egypt.
The Palestinian Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, held a conference welcoming the detainees back. He expressed his support for them, calling them ‘Freedom fighters for God and the country.’
With Abbas stood a Hamas founder, Sheikh Hasan Yousef. They both expressed their thanks towards Egypt, whose help secured the deal, as well as other Arab countries. They both offered statements of
Unfortunately there were also clashes between the Israeli Military and residents who came to Betunia terminal to welcome home the detainees. Water cannons and tear gas are claimed to have been used to disperse the crowds.
In Gaza, Ismail Haniyya of Hamas, along with many political and military leaders of the movement, welcomed the detainees who have been sent to Gaza.
They reaffirmed that the resistance fights for its people, and that they will continue to achieve victories.
Meanwhile, whilst the nearly five hundred Palestinian detainees have been returned home, captured Israeli Soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, has finally been returned home to Israel.
Egyptian TV has published an interview with the 25 year old soldier, who like thin and pale, after it is likely that he spent much of these past 5 years being kept out of the open and sunlight.
Shalit claimed he was first made aware of his upcoming release only 1 week ago, and that he was eager to tell people of his years in captivity.
The young soldier claimed that Egypt’s good relationship with Hamas and Israel played an important role in the deal.
When asked about the plight of thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, he claimed he would be happy to seem them released to go back home to their land and parents.
Despite years in captivity, Shalit hopes that the deal which Israel and Hamas hatched out will bolster the peace between the two.
Shalit will need to undergo extensive medical checks and be debriefed by the army regarding his captivity, but he has since met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his parents.
He is soon to be flown to a base in Tel Aviv, before returning home where his full family and friends will be waiting for him.
That was just some of the news from Palestine Today, for more updates; please visit our website at www.imemc.org. Thank you for joining us from occupied Bethlehem. This report has been brought to you by Hussam Qassis and me William Gibson.