Dec. 18 - Palestinians celebrate Israel's release of 550 prisoners in the final phase of the deal that freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from captivity in the Gaza Strip. Katharine Jackson reports.
Freed Palestinian prisoners wave to relatives as homecoming celebrations erupt in the West Bank. Israel released 550 Palestinian prisoners on Sunday in the second stage of a deal with Hamas that brought home soldier Gilad Shalit after five years of captivity in the Gaza Strip. Shalit was abducted in 2006 by militants who tunneled into Israel from the Gaza Strip and attacked his tank crew, killing two of his comrades. Israeli Government Spokesman for Arabic Press Ofir Gendelman. (SOUNDBITE) (English) OFIR GENDELMAN, GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN FOR ARABIC PRESS, SAYING: "We hope they will return and will relinquish violence; but if they do go back to violence we will hold them accountable." Israel's Prisons Service said the convoys of busses drove prisoners to destinations in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and Jordan. In Gaza, the former prisoners shook hands with Hamas leaders. Nearly all of the freed prisoners are from the West Bank, where Hamas' rival - the western-backed Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas - dominates. They were convicted of crimes that included attempted murder, planting bombs and membership of militant groups. Israel released 450 prisoners in October during the first phase of the deal. Katharine Jackson, Reuters.