In an unprecedented Red Cross exchange at Geneva airport on Wednesday (14 March) Israel released sixty-six palestinian prisoners to secure the freedom of one Israeli soldier.
In an unprecedented Red Cross exchange at Geneva airport on Wednesday (14 March) Israel released sixty-six palestinian prisoners to secure the freedom of one Israeli soldier. Ten other Arab detainees were also freed by Israel as part of the deal, but they chose to remain in Israeli-occupied Arab territory.
SYNOPSIS: News of the exchange was released in Damascus, Syria at a press conference given by a spokesman for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Abu Firas.
Shortly before the left Damascus the Israel prisoner, thirty-four year old Private Abraham Amram spoke about his experiences.
Private Amram was captured by Palestinian guerrillas in April last year, after he had accidentally crossed Israeli lines during Israel's invasion of South Lebanon, which was aimed at stamping out Palestinian guerrilla activity.
During his flight to freedom Amram was accompanied by a Red Cross official -- and enjoyed a meal served on board the Bulgarian Balkan Airline Tupolev jet. A spokesman for the Swiss International Red Cross Committee said ti took several months of negotiations to set up the exchange.
At Geneva airport the exchange was conducted like a military ...operation, with security checks at each stage. It took about four hours and Red Cross spokesman Alain Modoux said the reason for the strict security was "a climate of unbelievable suspicion and distrust" on both sides. After about half the Arabs had been handed over to the Red Cross the Palestinians allowed Amram to leave bulgarian plane and enter a Red Cross bus.
Abu Firan travelled on the plane with Amram and was on hand to welcome the released Palestinian as they boarded, after being checked out by the Red Cross. Earlier the final stage of the handover had involved two buses crossing from one plane to the other. Amram went straight on board the Israeli plane, which took off shortly afterwards.
But the Arabs had to wait longer, as they filed up the gangway to have their identities checked again by Palestinian officials. One woman among them complained of feeling unwell, but officials said she was able to continue her journey after seeing a doctor. No names of other details of the Palestinian prisoners were released, but the Red Cross said they were of all ages. Eventually, with the formalities completed, their plane took off for Tripoli in the Libyan Jamahiriyah.