JERUSALEM, Israel — Ilan Grapel, the 28-year old American-Israeli law school student held in Egypt since June 12 on espionage charges, was released and returned to Israel on Thursday, Oct. 27.
After being debriefed by Israeli defense officials, Grapel will be escorted back to his parents’ home in New York by their congressman, U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), who arrived in Israel on Wednesday evening.
The Egyptians agreed to release Grapel in return for the release of 25 Egyptians incarcerated in Israel. Israel’s cabinet unanimously approved the prisoner exchange on Tuesday. None of the prisoners to be released were linked to attacks on Israeli citizens. Three are reported to be minors.
According to a statement released by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, the deal was reached with the help of U.S. mediation. According to several reports in Arab media, an agreement by the U.S. to sell several F-16 fighter planes to Egypt also helped facilitate the deal.
The statement released by the Prime Minster’s office also noted that Netanyahu would also pursue negotiations with Egypt to secure the release of Ouda Tarabin, an Israeli Bedouin who has been held by Egypt for 11 years on charges of espionage.
Originally charged with espionage, the charges against Grapel were later reduced to incitement, insurrection, and damaging a public building during the uprising that took place in Egypt earlier this year.
According to the report, the deal represents the largest prisoner exchange agreement between Israel and Egypt. It comes just one week after the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who returned home after a deal was struck between Israel and Hamas terrorists to release more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.