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Israel Names 477 Palestinians to Be Freed in Prisoner Swap

The parents of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit are seen at a protest tent outside the residence of Israel's PM Netanyahu in Jerusalem 12/10/2011

Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas are making final preparations for a prisoner swap this week.

Israel has made public the names of 477 Palestinian prisoners who will be released on Tuesday in exchange for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held by Hamas for more than five years in the Gaza Strip.

The list includes top Hamas militants serving life sentences for deadly bombing and shooting attacks against Israelis. An additional 550 Palestinian prisoners will be released in two months time.

Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad told Israel Radio that all systems are go for the prisoner swap.

Senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hiyeh said the deal is a great achievement for the Palestinian people.

He said Hamas has declared a national holiday for Tuesday and is planning a big celebration in Gaza to welcome the prisoners home.

In Israel, the mood is more subdued. The families of terror victims have petitioned the nation’s Supreme Court to stop the deal, charging that freeing hardcore militants is an injustice that harms the memory of the victims and that will lead to more attacks.

Israeli analyst Dan Schueftan agrees.

"We may get Shalit back, but the result will be an enormous encouragement of terrorism, because it basically means that you can have terrorism against Israel with impunity," he said.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev admits the swap is problematic, but he says it is the best deal Israel could get.

"Though there is risk involved, and that cannot be denied, we think those risks are manageable, those risks are calculated, that we can live with those risks,” said Regev.

Israel has carried out lopsided prisoner swaps in the past, and while many question the wisdom of that policy, polls show that a strong majority of Israelis support the decision to bring the captive soldier home.