After Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released from captivity in the Gaza Strip early Tuesday morning, he gave his first interview post-release on Egyptian television, stating that he had been treated well as a prisoner and that he missed his friends and family and wanted to tell them about his experience in captivity.
Shalit was captured by Hamas in June 2006. After being held prisoner by Hamas for 5 years and 4 months, Shalit was transferred from Gaza to Egypt after Egyptian National Security mediated his release.
In his first interview, he appeared tired and overwhelmed as he responded to the interviewer’s questions.
“I’m very emotional. I haven’t seen people in a long time,” said Shalit, adding that he was looking forward to interacting with people again.
The soldier, now 25 years old, said his health was good and that he hoped his release in exchange for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israel would lead to peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.
He commented on the mediation of his release, saying, “It could have been possible to carry out this deal in a shorter time.”
Shalit claimed that he would be happy if the remaining Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons were freed, but that he hoped they would not revert to fighting Israel. Shalit did not make any comments regarding other issues in need of negotiation in the stalled peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, such as lifting the blockade of Gaza and the issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In Gaza, tens of thousands of Palestinians attended a rally celebrating the return of prisoners, some of whom hadn’t seen their family members in over 10 years. The total number of Palestinian prisoners that will be released is 1,027.
Since 1982, Israel has carried out several major prisoner swaps where hundreds of Arab prisoners are released for the return of a few Israelis.