Vehicles carrying Palestinian prisoners began departing from jails in Israel in the early hours of Tuesday morning. It set in motion the phased prisoner exchange aimed at securing the safe return of the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit.
In the deal reached between Hamas and the Israeli government Shalit will be freed after five years in captivity in a swap for more than 1000 Palestinian prisoners.
The first cars to leave a jail in central Israel were said to be carrying some of the 27 female prisoners most of whom will be freed in the West Bank.
According to Hamas, Israel Has also agreed to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Shalit was taken in 2006 in a Hamas raid into Israel from the Gaza Strip. Two of his comrades were killed.
During his five years in captivity very little has been seen of the young man who was only 19 when he was taken.
The exchange deal has provoked much opposition from Israeli families of victims killed in Palestinian attacks.