South Sinai Governor General Khalid Fuda said at a press conference Thursday “the release of Egyptian prisoners is another victory over Israel like the 1973 October war.” Fuda was speaking after the completion of the swap deal which saw dual US national Ilan Grapel freed in exchange for 25 Egyptian prisoners.
The press conference became heated as Egyptian journalists foamed over being told Grapel would leave Egypt via the Taba border crossing when in reality he left Cairo by plane.
General Fuda linked the Grapel deal to the release of Azzam Azzam in exchange for six Egyptian civilians. “If the October war was a military triumph, this is a diplomatic triumph. Grapel held two citizenships – Israeli and American – and that is why the deal was multi-layered.”
He described the criteria according to which the Egyptian prisoners who were freed under the deal were chosen as “varied.” Asked about Uda Tarabin, another Israeli citizen held in Egypt, he said: “It depends on the intelligence services. Inshallah, there may be more deals in the future. It’s all negotiable.”
North Sinai Governor General Abdel-Wahab Mabrouk also spoke at the press conference: “There are no Egyptian prisoners left in Israeli jails. Grapel was moved by flight rather than via Taba because of security arrangements. There are a number of security bodies involved here.”
After being asked about the matter again, he replied: “We are here to greet our prisoners. As for all security arrangements and swaps – these were coordinated between the security forces. We are only here to tell the prisoners – welcome.”
Ilan Grapel returned to Israel on Thursday after four months in an Egyptian prison. He was arrested in Egypt on suspicion of spying and inciting the public during the popular revolution. Egyptian officials later admitted he was not a spy.