AFP - Israel and Egypt were preparing Thursday to a exchange of prisoners between Israeli-American citizen accused of spying Ilan Grapelli and 25 Egyptians detained in Israel. The exchange is expected Thursday afternoon. The Israeli authorities will carry on the bus the prisoners to Egyptian Taba, a border to the Egyptian Sinai, while Ilan Grapelli, 27, will be repatriated to Israel by plane from Cairo. The Egyptian prisoners were imprisoned for drug trafficking, weapons or illegal infiltrations into Israeli territory. Among them are three children who had infiltrated into Israel, told AFP Siwan Weizman, spokesman for the prison administration.
They were gathered Thursday morning in a Beer Sheva prison pending their transfer to Eilat in southern Israel. They will then be transported to Taba where they should arrive at 5:00 p.m. (1500 GMT), said the spokesman. At the same time, the plane carrying Ilan Grapelli, who was arrested four months ago in Cairo, fly to the Egyptian capital to Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv. According to Israeli media, the device landed around 18:00 local. Ilan Grapelli will then be brought to Jerusalem where he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday before leaving for New York.
The Egyptian prisoners will be entitled to receive offficielle in a hotel in Taba which must involve the Governors of North and South Sinai, as well as representatives of the Bedouin community living on the peninsula. The Israeli Supreme Court rejected the appeals on Wednesday night against the exchange by a party of the extreme right by claiming that it did not intervene in a decision under political power. Ilan Grapelli, who holds dual Israeli and American citizenship, was presented by the Egyptian authorities as a "Mossad officer" seeking to "undermine the economic and political interests of the country." He was accused of coming to Egypt at the beginning of the revolt that caused the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak to "incite chaos and sectarian strife."
Israel has denied all these allegations by talking "error" on the part of Egypt. This exchange of prisoners came after the one that led to the release last week of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit held for more than five years in the Gaza Strip in exchange for a first contingent of 477 Palestinian prisoners.