- (Reuters/MENA/Khalid Farid)
Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier detained for over five years by the militant Palestinian group Hamas, reunited with his family Tuesday in an intricate prisoner swap.
Shalit was swapped in Egypt for over 1,000 Palestinian Prisoners, who were transported to the deal in buses.
The soldier had been held captive since being abducted in a cross-border raid in 2006. Shalit was taken to Egypt and then home to Israel, where he underwent a medical check and declared in good health, according to a New York Times report.
Shalit changed into his military uniform and was flown to an Israeli military base where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He was also reunited with his family at the base.
“Today we are all united in joy and in pain,” Netanyahu said in a televised address.
Many feel that the swap will be inimical to Israel's security.
"I want to make it clear: we will continue fighting terrorism," the prime minister said.
Shalit said he was unsure he would ever be released.
"I thought that I would find myself in this situation many more years,” Shalit said in a brief interview with Egyptian state television. “If they wanted to secure my freedom, they had to pay a price for this.”
The soldier was then asked what he missed most during his imprisonment.
“My family and my friends and seeing and talking with people. The worst was having to do the same thing every day over and over.”
Shalit's mother cooked his favorite meal -- pasta and soup, according to family spokesman Tami Shienkman. The soldier's mother said she will try to keep him away from reporters in the coming days. "He needs to settle down."
He was informed that Israel still had thousands of Palestinian prisoners and was asked if they should be released.
“I will be happy for them to be released if they don’t return to fight us,” he said. “I very much hope that this deal will advance peace.”
Shalit, now 25, was 19 when he was seized by Hamas.