The Most Notorious Names in the Shalit Prison Swap

Some have wasted little time in speaking out against Israel.

Gilad Shalit may now be reunited with his family, but the controversy surrounding the 477 Palestinian prisoners swapped for the captive Israeli soldier this week has not died down. Some Israelis are ambivalent, concerned, or downright angry about the release of men and women who carried out deadly terrorist attacks in Israel. And some Palestinians are upset about the restrictions Israel has placed on the movement and activities of the released prisoners. Israeli authorities, for example, relocated the most dangerous prisoners to countries like Turkey, Qatar, Syria, and Jordan, and sent over a hundred more to the Gaza Strip, where travel restrictions and a security wall may make it harder to carry out attacks against Israelis. Many detainees will have to check in regularly with Israeli officials, and fifty-five signed documents promising not to return to terrorist activities, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Let’s take a look at 10 of the most notorious prisoners that Israel released, based on information from Israel’s Prison Service and reports circulating in the media.

Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images


The 49-year-old Gaza native, who is generally considered the most senior prisoner released, helped establish Hamas’s military wing in Gaza — including an internal security network that killed Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel — and was serving four life sentences for his involvement in the 1994 kidnapping and murder of Israeli soldier Nachshon Wachsman. Is it a coincidence that, according to Al Jazeera, Sinwar’s brother, Mohammed, may have helped engineer Hamas’s abduction of Gilad Shalit? Upon returning home to Gaza (see picture above), Yehya Sinwar stated that capturing Israeli soldiers was the best way to free Palestinian prisoners. “For the prisoner, capturing an Israeli soldier is the best news in the universe, because he knows that a glimmer of hope has been opened for him,” he declared, per the New York Times.

 Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images


The 31-year-old Hamas operative was serving a staggering 36 life sentences for his role in suicide bombings at Jerusalem’s Café Moment (11 killed) and the Rishon LeZion pool hall (16 killed) in 2002 during the Second Intifada. The conditions of his release require Anajas to be relocated abroad rather than sent back to his home in the West Bank city of Ramallah.


The Hamas military leader helped plan many of the deadliest suicide bombings of the Second Intifada, including 2001 attacks on a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem (15 killed) and a disco near the Dolphinarium in Tel Aviv (21 killed), and 2002 attacks on a Passover seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya (30 killed) and the Matza restaurant in Haifa (15 killed). Israeli authorities have decided to relocate Badran, who was serving over 17 years in prison, abroad rather than return him to the West Bank.


The 30-year-old former television reporter helped plan and carry out the Sbarro pizzeria bombing, driving the suicide bomber to the restaurant. Frimet Roth, the mother of a 15-year-old victim, wrote an editorial in Haaretz over the weekend criticizing the Israeli government for releasing Tamimi, who expressed no remorse for participating in the bombing in 2006 and has since vowed to carry out a similar attack if she has the chance (Ynet says Ahlam Tamimi was “always proud of the fact that she was the first female Hamas combatant”). Tamimi received 16 life sentences and is pictured above returning to her native Jordan.

Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images


In 2000, a 20-year-old Salha arrived at a Ramallah police station where two Israeli reservists had been taken and beaten by a mob after they mistakenly drove their car into the West Bank city. As Haaretz tells it, Salha removed a knife from the back of one of the soldiers and stabbed him three more times. He then proudly waved his bloodied hands outside the window in what The Guardian calls one of the “most horrifying and resonant” images of the Second Intifada. He was sentenced to life in prison and will be relocated to Gaza


Posing as an American, the Palestinian activist struck up a romantic relationship online with a 16-year-old Israeli high school student named Ofir Rahum and arranged to meet him in Jerusalem in 2001, only to then drive him to a location near Ramallah where Palestinian gunmen shot and killed him. Awana, who was in her mid-20s at the time of Rahum’s death, was sentenced to life in jail and will not be allowed return to her home in the West Bank. According to Israel’s Ministry of Education, Awana said she was inspired to carry out her plot by the 2000 mob murder of Israeli soldiers in Ramallah mentioned above. But Awana’s mother insists her daughter didn’t intend for Rahum to be killed, according to the AP. According to Ynet, Awana, pictured above in 2001, had reputation for being cruel to her fellow inmates in prison.

Getty Images


The 54-year-old Hamas commander led an elite fighting unit that kidnapped and killed two Israeli soldiers in separate incidents in 1989. He’s returning to his home in Gaza. In 2009, an accomplice, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, recounted picking up one of the soldiers as a hitchhiker in an interview with Al Jazeera Arabic. “As we were going on the highway to Majdal, [fellow Hamas militant] Abu Suhaib turned back and shot [the soldier], took his weapon, we had sharp knives and I had a gun, I wanted to shoot him but Abu Suhaib was faster than me,” Mabhouh recalled. After more than two decades in jail, Sharatha will be returning to his home in Gaza.


During the First Intifada in 1989, Ghanim grabbed the steering wheel of a bus en route to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and steered it into a ravine, killing 16 people on board. He received 16 life sentences — one for each victim — but he’ll now return to his native Gaza. “I don’t think there’s any justification for sending him home,” the sister of one of the victims told the Toronto Star. “He hasn’t paid his price yet. He’ll return a hero.”


The West Bank native received 29 life sentences for planning the bloody Passover bombing of the Park Hotel in Netanya that helped trigger Israel’s reoccupation of the West Bank. He’ll be relocated abroad.


In 1992, the Gaza resident stabbed a 15-year-old Israeli girl named Helena Rapp to death on her way to school in the city of Bat Yam. He’s returning home.

Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland. Twitter: @UriLF

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