Report: 63 Egyptians for 1 Israeli National

Jerusalem is set to swap 63 Egyptian prisoners for Israeli Odeh Tarabin, who has been imprisoned in Egypt since 2000 for espionage

Gabe Kahn ,

Israel-Egyptian crossing at Taba
Israel-Egyptian crossing at Taba
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Israel and Egypt are set to conduct a prisoner exchange on Sunday in which 63 Egyptians will be swapped for an Israeli national convicted of spying for Israel, Israeli sources say.

Egyptian authorities have yet to formally accept the deal, but Israeli political sources were quoted by Israel’s state Arabic-language radio station saying the deal was going ahead.

According to the Bethlehem-based Maan News Agency, some 40 Egyptian inmates in Israeli prisons went on strike after Jerusalem and Cairo had failed to agree on the prisoner swap earlier this week.

The swap was originally scheduled for last Wednesday, but did not go ahead amid the imbroglio between Israel and Egypt over the latter's decision to terminate its natural gas deal with the Jewish state, the Egyptian Independent reported.

But Radio Kol Israel on Sunday reported that only three Egyptian prisoners had gone on hunger strike to demand their release, adding that they are receiving medical treatment at Ramla prison.

The station added that the Egyptian consul, Sameh Nabil, has requested permission to visit the prisoners.

Israeli Odeh Tarabin has been in Egyptian custody since he was tried and convicted of espionage in 2000. Egyptian authorities have frequently used the arrest of Israeli nationals on 'espionage charges' as a means of forcing prisoner swaps favorable to Cairo.

An Egyptian official had told Maan last week that if the swap goes ahead, the prisoners would be released via the Taba crossing under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty was signed in 1979, making Cairo the first Arab nation to be formally at peace with the Jewish state. Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat, who signed the treaty, was assassinated in 1981.