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Ukrainian mother of two among released Palestinian prisoners

A Ukrainian mother of two was among the prisoners released by Israel on Tuesday in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

A Ukrainian mother of two was among the prisoners released by Israel on Tuesday in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The woman, Irina Polishchuk, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for assisting in a terrorist attack in the central Israeli city of Rishon LeZion in May 2002 that killed two people and injured 40, the newspaper Segodnya said.

Polishchuk and her husband, Palestinian Ibrahim Sarahme, who was sentenced to six life terms plus 45 years, were convicted of delivering a suicide bomber to the site of the attack in their car, the newspaper said.

Polishchuk spent nine years behind bars before she was released on Tuesday among 476 other Palestinian prisoners as part of the prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas.

“We sent requests [to the Israeli authorities] for years asking to at least extradite Irina; we have filed appeals against her verdict and requests to allow [her] to meet with her relatives,” Segodnya quoted Palestinian envoy to Ukraine Mohammed Al-Assad as saying.

Since her arrest, one of Polishchuk's minor daughters has been cared for by her Palestinian grandmother in a refugee camp near Bethlehem, he said. The other lives with her Ukrainian grandmother near the Ukrainian city of Vinnitsa.

“When the girls met recently, they could not say a word to each other,” Al-Assad was quoted as saying. “One speaks Russian, the other Arabic. They hugged each other and cried.”

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Polishchuk, who was tried as a Palestinian national, has received her Ukrainian passport. She does not plan to return to Ukraine before she has done everything possible to secure the release of her husband, Al-Assad said.

Polishchuk’s husband is not listed among the other 550 Palestinian prisoners that Israel will release in two months.

Shalit, who was captured in June 2006 by Palestinian militants near the Gaza Strip, returned home on Tuesday. Among the prisoners that Isreal released earlier this week were 287 serving life sentences.

There were about 8,200 Palestinian and Arab prisoners in Israeli jails before the prisoner swap, including 62 women and over 200 children, according to Palestinian estimates.

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