Ilan Grapel was released from an Egyptian jail and boarded a jet bound for Israel on Thursday afternoon as a part of an exchange for 25 Egyptians held in Israeli prisons, Reuters reported.
Grapel, 27, who has been held in Egypt for five months on spying charges, landed at Israel's Ben Gurioun Airport shortly after 7PM local time.
Israeli representatives reported that Grapel was in good health and is happy to be free. His mother Irene met him at Ben-Gurion Airport. Grapel is expected to meet briefly with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday evening.
Grapel was being escorted to Israel by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's envoy Yitzhak Molcho, and Kadima MK and former deputy Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yisrael Hasson. Both men were insturmental in negotiating his release.
Meanwhile, the 25 Egyptian prisoners to be swapped for Grapel crossed into Egypt via the Taba crossing. According to the Israel Prison Service all of the Egyptian prisoners were serving time for criminal – rather than security-related – offenses.
On Wednesday, MK Michael Ben Air took issue which that characterization saying, as weapons smugglers [who sold arms to terrorists -ed.] they should be classified as terrorists.
The United States, which provides Egypt with billions of dollars in military aid, took a hand in the negotiations due to Grapel's dual American-Israeli citizenship.
The US-brokered exchange deal was reached on the heels of an Egyptian-brokered swap between Israel and Hamas that freed captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners.
As a part of the deal to release him, the US has reportedly promised to Egypt's ruling junta the F-16 strike fighter.