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Dh7,000 for each freed Palestinian

Agence France-Presse

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GAZA // Hamas will give Dh7,340 to each detainee released by Israel to Gaza under a landmark prisoner exchange deal.

"It has been decided that to honour the freed prisoners, each of them will be given US$2,000," said a statement from the office of Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas government.

Hundreds of freed Palestinians tasted their first full day of freedom yesterday, with both sides mulling their gains - and losses - after the prisoner swap with the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Tuesday marked the successful completion of the first stage of a prisoner exchange agreement between Hamas and Israel in which 477 Palestinians were released and Mr Shalit went home after five years in Hamas captivity.

The scenes of tearful jubilation were played out hundreds of times over in the Palestinian Territories as families were reunited with their loved ones.

Among the Palestinians freed, 15 of them arrived in Doha yesterday.

The released prisoners landed in the Qatari capital on a chartered plane at 3am and were greeted by the deputy prime minister, Ahmad Abdullah Mahmoud. The prisoners were taken to a hotel and were expected to undergo medical check-ups later.

Israel will eventually have handed over 1,027 prisoners in exchange for Mr Shalit - more than ever before. "Yesterday was one of those rare days in which happiness, the exact same happiness, reigned in both Gaza and Galilee," wrote the Haaretz newspaper columnist Gideon Levy.

Many Israeli commentators yesterday discussed Tuesday's unusual sight of green Hamas flags flying in the West Bank.

They also noted the huge boost the deal had given to the Islamist movement - and the trouble it could spell for Israel.

"The day after is a day for deep and rational soul-searching. And there is no time. The kidnapping of the next Israeli is not a question of if, it is a question of when," wrote Yediot Aharonot's military commentator, Alex Fishman.

Meanwhile, in Cairo, an Egyptian journalist who was accused by an Israeli official of violating "all the basic ethical rules of journalism" by interviewing Mr Shalit just moments after he was released denied she pressured him into doing the interview.

Shahira Amin - celebrated in Egypt for quitting her job as a state television reporter during the uprising that led to the removal of the president, Hosni Mubarak, in February - conducted Tuesday's interview for the state-owned Nile Television.

Ms Amin told an Egyptian chat show yesterday that she had asked Mr Shalit to do the interview and he consented.

The discussion was conducted on the no-man's-land in the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, she said.

Mr Shalit was accompanied by Hamas members and Egyptian intelligence agents.

"He was tired. I sat with him at first for two minutes and said, 'I understand you want to see your parents as soon as possible and don't want to give interviews, but the world wants to know how you are doing so don't deprive us of some words.'

"If he refused, we wouldn't have pressured him." The Egyptian Gazette, a government-owned English daily, reported on its website yesterday that the head of Egypt's state television had also said that no one had forced Mr Shalit to do the interview with Ms Amin after his release.

* Agence France-Presse

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