After 5 years and 4 months in captivity, Israeli soldier Sgt. Gilad Shalit was released from captivity in the Gaza Strip early this morning. He was met by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his family.
Met by his family, the 25-year-old, looking pale and thin, emerged from imprisonment on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing accompanied the chief of the Hamas military, Ahmed Jaberi.
Shalit's tank was ambushed in June 2006. Sgt and he was taken captive. Shalit was released from Palestinian prison Tuesday in exchange for more than 1,000 prisoners held in Israel who had been convicted in Israel of a wide range of serious offenses. After the Egypt–brokered release, Shalit was transferred from Gaza to Egypt, then across the border to Israel.
In his first post-release interview on Egyptian television, the soldier stated he had been treated well.
“I’m very emotional. I haven’t seen people in a long time,” said Shalit. He also stated he had missed his friends and family and wanted to tell them about his experience in captivity, adding that he was looking forward to interacting with people again.
The soldier 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 people.
He made no negative statements about the way his release was arranged by Israel or about Hamas, except to say, “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 those who were released would not revert to fighting Israel.
In Gaza, tens of thousands of Palestinians, some of whom had not seen family members in over 10 years, attended a rally celebrating the return of their family members.
Since 1982, Israel has carried out several major prisoner swaps where hundreds of Arab prisoners are released for the return of a few Israelis.
Israel had used Shalit's abduction as justification for a blockade of Gaza. Hamas leaders have called on Israel to remove restrictions on the passage of commercial goods as part of the release deal.