The Israel Supreme Court [official website] on Monday rejected appeals to halt the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a captured Israeli soldier. The petitions arguing against the release of more than 1,000 jailed Palestinians in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit [BBC backgrounder] were filed by four families of the victims of the prisoners set to be released. The petitions were filed within the 48-hour window afforded to members of the public who wish to contest the prisoner exchange by the Ministry of Justice [official website]. The prisoner exchange deal came after a landmark agreement between Israel and Hamas [JURIST news archive] that was negotiated last month. The rejection of the appeals by the court cleared the way for prisoner exchange to begin. The prisoner exchange process is set to take place in two stages and will be completed sometime next year.
The release of Shalit has been a point of contention in the already tense relations between the Israeli government and Hamas. In April, Israel called for the UN to retract the Goldstone Report [JURIST report], which accused Israel of war crimes, following statements made by Richard Goldstone in a Washington Post op-ed [text] indicating that the fact finding mission underlying the report may have been flawed. The report accused Palestinian fighters of mistreating Shalit in violation of the Third Geneva Convention [text]. In June 2010, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged Hamas [JURIST report] authorities to allow Shalit to communicate with his family and receive visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website]. In February 2008, a tentative agreement for the release of Shalit was hindered by disagreements [JURIST report] over the identity of the Palestinian prisoners to be released in exchange. Shalit was captured by Palestinian militants in 2006 during a raid on an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) [official website] post near the Kerem Shalom crossing in Israel.