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Egypt frees Israeli-American in prisoner exchange

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Egypt frees Israeli-American in prisoner exchange


25 Egyptians held by Israel, and an Israeli-American accused by Cairo of spying, have been returned to their respective countries in a prisoner exchange deal.

The Egyptians crossed the border at Taba between Israel and the Sinai peninsula.

Several are said to have been involved in smuggling, which is rife along the frontier. Mostly Bedouin, many complain of unemployment and neglect by Egypt.

Israel has given assurances to its citizens that none of those it had held in Beersheba had committed acts of spying or terrorism.

Analysts say the exchange was a cover to enable the Egyptian authorities to save face, because there is widespread scepticism that Ilan Grapel was a spy.

The 27-year-old has been released by Egypt; he was put on a flight to Tel Aviv. Israel and his family say he had been working for a charity in Cairo.

The exchange deal was brokered by the US, which provides the army which runs Egypt with millions of dollars in military aid.

Grapel was arrested in June by the new Egyptian authorities and accused of recruting agents for Mossad.

Israel described the allegations as false, saying although Grapel may have been a naive traveller he was no spy.

The exchange follows the recent release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who had been held for five years in Gaza.

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