Last updated: 13 October, 2011

Red Cross offers to aid Israel-Hamas prisoner swap

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday it had offered its services to Israel and Hamas in the pending exchange of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The ICRC had offered its services as a “neutral and independent organisation”, said spokesman Marcal Izard, stressing the Geneva-based body had not been a party to the negotiations.

The Egypt-mediated deal will see Shalit released in exchange for the progressive release of 1,027 Palestinian detainees, some 40 of whom will be exiled overseas and another 163 sent to Gaza.

“We can facilitate the transfer of detained people if the two parties wish it,” said Izard.

The ICRC had experience in this type of operation, he said, including overseeing the transfer of Palestinian women detained in Israel in 2009.

The spokesman would not say what the response of Israel and Hamas had been to its offer.

But if they agreed, one of the ICRC’s first tasks will be to hold confidential interviews with prisoners to establish where they wish to go after their release.

Shalit is expected to return to Israel via Egypt by next Wednesday, Palestinian sources and Israeli media said, one day after the release of a first group of 450 Palestinian prisoners.