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Deported Palestinians Begin Arriving in Host Countries


Some of the 16 Palestinian prisoners smile as they arrive at the airport in Damascus, Syria early on October 19, 2011.

Some of the 16 Palestinian prisoners smile as they arrive at the airport in Damascus, Syria early on October 19, 2011.

A group of Palestinians who were designated to be deported under a prisoner exchange with Israel has begun arriving in their host countries.

Syria's state-run media says 16 former prisoners, including one female, arrived in Damascus on Wednesday. Earlier, 11 former Palestinian inmates arrived in Turkey.

In all, about 40 Palestinians are being deported, possibly due to security concerns. Israeli officials allowed more than 400 other freed Palestinians to return to the West Bank and Gaza, where they were greeted with celebrations.

The prisoners were freed as part of a deal to gain the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was captured by Palestinian militants in 2006.

Thousands of well-wishers lined the streets of Shalit's hometown of Mitzpeh Hila to mark his return on Tuesday, hours after he was freed by Hamas leaders.

In an interview with Egyptian state television shortly after his release, Shalit appeared disoriented as he answered a reporter's questions with a masked Hamas militant standing behind him. Asked if he would support the release of other Palestinian prisoners, Shalit said he would be happy to see them freed if they stop fighting Israel. He also said he missed his family and friends.

Under the Egyptian-mediated prisoner exchange, Israel will free another 550 Palestinian prisoners over a two-month period.


Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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