Timeline Of Five Other Major Israel-Palestinian Prisoner Swaps

Israel is typically forced to release large numbers of prisoners in order to obtain the release of its nationals.

Israeli soldiers patrol outside a military prison from which Palestinian women and teenagers are to be released. Photo: AP


The families of at least 50 civilians held hostage in Gaza are awaiting the return of loved ones under a truce deal which will see Israel release 150 Palestinian prisoners.

Israel is typically forced to release large numbers of prisoners in order to obtain the release of its nationals.

Here are the five previous biggest prisoner swaps between Israel and Palestinian or Lebanese militant groups.

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 1983: Pact with PLO

On November 23, 1983, Israel freed around 4,500 prisoners, mostly Palestinians, in return for six Israeli soldiers captured by the Palestine Liberation Organization during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon the previous year.


1985: 3 Israelis for 1,150 Arabs

On May 20, 1985, Israel released around 1,150 Arab prisoners, mostly Palestinians, in return for three soldiers being held by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command under a deal that took months to negotiate.


 1997: Hamas founder freed

On October 1, 1997, Israel released Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, who spent eight years in detention, along with dozens of other Palestinian and Jordanian prisoners in return for the release of two Israeli Mossad agents.

The agents were caught in Jordan’s capital Amman after a failed bid to assassinate Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal by injecting him with poison.

Israel later assassinated Yassin in a targeted strike on Gaza in March 2004.


2004: bodies returned

On January 29, 2004, Israel freed around 430 prisoners, including 400 Palestinians and 23 Lebanese nationals, during a swap with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah for the bodies of three Israeli soldiers kidnapped four years previously.

Hezbollah also released businessman and former army colonel Elhanan Tannenbaum, whom it had captured in the United Arab Emirates in 2000.

 2011: controversial Gilad Shalit swap

After five years and a tireless campaign by his family for his release, soldier Gilad Shalit, who was taken prisoner by Hamas on the Gaza border in June 2006 at the age of 19, was freed on October 18, 2011.

He was swapped for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners released in two groups.

It was the first time in 26 years that an Israeli soldier was recovered alive.

The large number of Palestinians released — including Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s leader in Gaza who is suspected of masterminding the October 7 massacre — caused controversy in Israel.

It led to the creation of an Israeli commission responsible for setting red lines in negotiations.