Israel today released the final Palestinian woman prisoner as part of a breakthrough swap with the Hamas movement for a video of its soldier held in Gaza for more than three years. Roudah Habib was released into Gaza via the Erez crossing, where she was greeted by relatives and friends before being escorted to the office of Ismail Haniya, the prime minister of the Hamas-run government, Ms Habib's sister said. On Friday Israel released 19 women prisoners in exchange for a nearly three-minute video of Sgt Gilad Shalit, a soldier seized by Gaza militants in June 2006.
Another woman who was on the list of the 20 prisoners to be released in return for the tape was freed early, leading Israel to find a replacement, Ms Habib. The swap, which marked the first time Israel released prisoners as part of the affair and the first video of Sgt Shalit released by his captors, was the most important development in nearly three years of on-again, off-again indirect talks between Israel and Hamas that have been brokered by Egypt.
The breakthrough was widely attributed in Israel to German mediators, who joined the efforts this summer. *AFP