Gilad Shalit at home in Mitzpe Hila

Gilad Shalit, 25, landed at home in northern Israel Tuesday evening, Oct. 18, after five years, four months in Hamas captivity, from hours packed with an emotional welcome by his family and government leaders at Tel Nof air base. His father Noam Shalit told a large crowd and the media that the returned soldier needed time to adjust from his long solitary confinement and was not ready to meet crowds. He is in good shape except for old untreated injuries from shrapnel, lack of sunlight and some malnutrition, said his father.

 Asked about his experiences, Noam said his son had not had time to say much, but reported he was treated badly when he was first kidnapped in a cross-border raid from the Gaza Strip in June 2006 but his captors' treatment improved later.

Before he set out on the last lap of his journey home by helicopter, a medical team carried out tests to be sure the exhausted soldier was fit to travel.

 Israel agreed to release 1,027 Palestinian terrorists for his freedom. The first batch was transferred to Egypt and the West Bank as the soldier crossed the border and was handed to Israel by Egyptian officer.

The exchange took place with clockwork precision, except for the X factor: Gilad Shalit's long incarceration far from human contact had left him weak and unused to the crowds who surrounded him upon his release. The army doctors who examined him recommended tests and rest before he travels to his family home at Mitzpe Hila.

The soldier crossed the border on his way home Tuesday morning as Israel transferred 338 released Palestinian Fifty of the most hard core terrorists will not enter Gaza but be deported directly from Cairo to Syria, Jordan, Turkey and Qatar. Of the batch released to the West Bank and Jerusalem, 65 are convicted Hamas terrorists.   

Another 550 will be released later.

Fifty of the most hard core terrorists will not enter Gaza but be deported directly from Cairo to Syria, Jordan, Turkey and Qatar.
Of the batch released to the West Bank and Jerusalem, 65 are convicted Hamas terrorists.  Fifty of the most hard core terrorists will not enter Gaza but be deported directly from Cairo to Syria, Jordan, Turkey and Qatar.
Of the batch released to the West Bank and Jerusalem, 65 are convicted Hamas terrorists.   
Egyptian TV showed the first photos of the Israeli soldier walking between his Hamas captives and the Egyptian officers who took charge of him. After the chief medical officer pronounced him fit and well, he was flown to the Tel Nof air base for his first meeting with his family. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu led the welcoming party with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.

Netanyahu vowed to continue to fight terror and warned that if any of the released terrorists reverted to violence "his blood is on his head."

 In an interview screened by Egyptian state TV, before his handover to Israel, Gilad Shalit appeared pale, thin and tense. His answers were lucid and well-phrased but he had difficulty in collecting himself for each question. He also told the interviewer he was not feeling well.

After being told he was to be freed a week ago, he said, he was afraid the deal for his release would fall through. What he missed most in his years of confinement was human contact. "I was kept in one place and not allowed to see people,"  he said. Asked whether he would help campaign for the release of Palestinians remaining in Israeli jails, he replied that would depend on their commitment not to return to terror and work for peace.
He was kept abreast of events by a radio and provided with TV tuned to Arabic stations in his cell.
The released soldier had a long weepy conversation with his parents before meeting them at the Tel Nof air base.

The exchange took place after the Israeli High Court in a stormy session Monday refused four petitions to delay its implementation filed by the families of hundreds of victims of the terrorists.  

At Betuniya outside Ramallah, pro-Hamas demonstrators gathered to welcome returning terrorists, brandishing Hamas flags which are banned by the Palestinian Authority and singing songs hailing more murders of Israelis.

An unnoticed irony of the transaction was the circuitous route the heavily guarded convoy carrying hundreds of freed Palestinian terrorists to the Gaza Strip crossings had to take because the main Highway 10 has been closed for nearly two months by an extended terrorist alert in southern Israel. A Palestinian cell has been ensconced in Sinai waiting its chance to strike Israeli targets across the Egyptian-Israeli border. Israeli helicopters and reconnaissance balloons in the air and an entire army brigade on the ground secured the region at the same time as the government turned loose a large group of hard-core terrorist killers.

Twenty-four hours before the prisoner exchange, the Egyptian army carried out a live fire exercise to drill a military crossing of the Suez Canal to the Sinai Peninsula. This was intended as a demonstration to the restive Egyptian street that the day would come when the Egyptian army would return to Sinai notwithstanding the demilitarization clauses of the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
The Netanyahu government did not respond to the maneuver so as not to rock the boat with Cairo before the Shalit exchange was complete. High Egyptian officers flew in to make sure Israel adhered to every last comma of the transaction Cairo brokered with Hamas.
Israel also stood by as Egypt allowed the head of Hamas' political bureau Khaled Meshaal to reach El Arish in northern Sinai to stage a heroes' welcome for the terrorists facing exile.

In Israel itself, the powers-that-be activated a comprehensive propaganda machine through the media for muting any controversy or provide a platform for objections that might impede or delay the prisoner swap. At a stormy session, the High Court had little choice but to dismiss the four petitions filed by hundreds of victims.

Former Shin Bet Director, MK Avi Dichter commented that the prisoner exchange occasioned the first direct deal between Hamas and the state of Israel.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Font Resize
Contrast