Countdown to IDF officials will make initial contact with Gilad Shalit, and give green light for the immediate release of hundreds of prisoners.
Surrounding vicinity to be declared closed military area.
By Yoav Zitun
The IDF, Prison Service and police are completing last minute preparations ahead of the prisoner exchange deal that will see the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit in return for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.
According to the plan, Gilad’s first encounter with Israeli officials will take place in the Sinai Peninsula, after the kidnapped soldier will be transferred there from the Gaza Strip.
Operation Beit HaShoevah, named after the special celebration held during the intermediate days of Sukkot, will begin immediately after IDF officials make initial contact with Shalit in Sinai.
At that moment, Prison Service employees will release hundreds of prisoners, which will be divided in two main groups – some 100 prisoners will leave on Red Cross buses toward Ramallah, while a second, larger group, will be transferred to Gaza or deported abroad.
According to the plan, Shalit will be transferred from Sinai to a military base in the south, where he will undergo initial medical examinations. From there, an Air Force helicopter will take him to Tel Nof airbase in central Israel, where he will first reunite with his family.
In fact, the most critical moments of the operation are expected during the transfer of Shalit from Sinai to Israel via land. Only after his medical condition is verified, the IDF will make an official announcement regarding Shalit’s return to Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold short reception
Following a short reception attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, the family will deliver a statement to the press at a media tent erected at the entrance to the base.
From there Shalit will be flown to his home in Mitzpe Hila, where he will continue to be accompanied by military professionals.
The IDF Spokesperson’s office will take the first footage of Shalit in Tel Nof base and will hand it to media outlets in an orderly fashion. The IDF however is not ruling out the possibility that Shalit will be photographed by Hamas prior to his release on Tuesday morning.
During the operation, the surrounding vicinities will be declared a closed military area, and will be closed to the public. The operation will be commanded by Head of the IDF Operations Division Brigadier-General Kobi Barak, under the supervision of Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.
Phase 1: Shalit is released and met either by a representative of the International Red Cross or an Egyptian official on Tuesday morning.
Phase 2: Israel frees 27 Arab female prisoners on confirmation of Shalit’s release.
Phase 3: Hamas transfers Shalit to Egypt via the Rafah crossing. Shalit will spend a very short period of time in Egypt, possibly under 15 minutes, before overland transfer to Israel.
Phase 4: Israel releases the first wave of Palestinian prisoners to Gaza and the West Bank upon confirmation of the transfer.
Phase 5: Shalit is transferred to an Israel Defense Forces near Israel’s borders with Egypt and Gaza. He will be given his old cell phone in order to telephone his mother.
Phase 6: Shalit is expected to undergo initial medical check-ups conducted by IDF Chief Medical Officer Brigadier – General Itzik Kreis.
Phase 7: Shalit is transferred to Israel Air Force base at Tel Nof.
Phase 8: Shalit undergoes further medical examination on arrival at Tel Nof.
Phase 9: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz meet Shalit at Tel Nof.
Phase 10: Shalit is accompanied by Netanyahu, Barak and Gantz to be reunited with his family.
Phase 11: If Shalit is well and healthy, the IDF flies Shalit and his family to their home Mitzpe Hila in north Israel by helicopter.
The entire transfer is expected to be completed by Tuesday afternoon.
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See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive