15 freed Palestinian prisoners arrive in Qatar

Fifteen Palestinian prisoners released as part of a swap deal that saw Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit freed from five years of Hamas captivity arrived in the Qatari capital on Wednesday, an official said.

The freed prisoners landed in Doha on a specially chartered Qatari airplane at 3.00 am (0000 GMT) and were greeted by deputy prime minister Ahmad Abdullah Mahmoud, the Palestinian diplomatic official told AFP.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the 15 Palestinians were taken to a hotel and were expected to undergo medical check-ups later Wednesday.

Israel on Tuesday began releasing 1,027 Palestinians in two stages in exchange for the handover of Shalit, who was snatched by Hamas militants in June 2006.

Among them were hundreds who were serving life sentences after being convicted of involvement in deadly attacks, in what is the highest price ever paid by the Jewish state for the release of one man.

The 15 Palestinians who arrived in Doha were among the first batch of 477 detainees freed. Most were sent to the occupied West Bank or to Gaza but around 40 were deemed too dangerous to remain on Israel's doorstep.

Qatar had said it was ready to host some of the 40, along with Turkey and Egypt.

Shalit was reunited with his family in Israel.

AFP

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