Jerusalem: Israel will free 550 Palestinian and Arab prisoners as part of the second phase of a landmark prisoner-swap deal with Hamas.

“Pursuant to the government of Israel's decision ... 550 prisoners will be released on Sunday,” the Israel Prison Service (IPS) said in a statement on Wednesday.

After preliminary identification and medical checks on Thursday night, the prisoners will be escorted to two detention facilities, from where they will leave for West Bank and Gaza, it said.

According to the local Ynet news service, some 400 of them have already served two-thirds of their jail terms.

The release of these inmates is the second and final stage of a swap deal, in which Israel sets free 1,027 Palestinian and Arab prisoners in exchange for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The first batch of 477 prisoners were released Oct 18, the same day Shalit returned home after being held by Hamas for over five years.