Gilead Shalit’s video-tape from Hamas prison is broadcast

The video-tape of Sgt. Gilead Shalit handed Israel Friday Oct. 2 in a trade for 20 Palestinian female prisoners was given to his close family, who viewed his image for the first time since he was kidnapped in June, 2006, 1,200 days ago, aged 19. Running two minutes, 42 seconds, the soldier was recorded reading a Hamas daily newspaper dated Sept. 14 as proof that the tape is recent.
He appeared healthy, sitting down and standing up, although very thin and tired with deeply shadowed eyes. He spoke clearly from a white page resting on the newspaper, first identifying himself by name and ID, then stating the date on the Palestinian newspaper he held.
The Israeli soldier appeared cleanly shaved, his hair cut close; he wore a brand-new uniform shirt and pants. Looking at the Arabic newspaper, he said with a faint smile: “I had hoped to find here word of my release and return home. I have waited a long time for the day of my release and hope the present government headed by Binyamin Netanyahu will not waste this chance of concluding the deal and letting me realize my dream of freedom at last.”
He then sent his best wishes to his family: “I love them and miss them very much and can’t wait for the day when I see them again.”
Addressing his parents, he asked if they remember visiting him at a base on the Golan on Dec. 31, 2005 and photographing him on an old Merkava tank at the entrance, then touring the base and going for lunch at one of the Druze villages. “We then took pictures against the background of the snow-capped Hermon.”
He then said: “I feel well health-wise and the mujaheddin of Ezz e-Din al Qassam are treating me excellently. Thank you and Lehitraot (au revoir).”
The tape was clearly staged and edited at source. It was the first visual communications allowed by Hamas since Shalilt’s capture after three letters and an audio-tape.
It was left to the Shalit family to decide if and when to release the tape for public airing. Hamas promised not to broadcast the video first.
The single Palestinian woman returning to the Gaza Strip (the others headed back to their West Bank homes) was welcomed by a large rally and Hamas leaders. Prime minister Ismail Haniyeh said her release vindicates his movement’s practice of kidnapping Israelis as hostages to break “fighters” out of Israeli jails.
Hamas demands up to 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for the Israeli soldier’s release. Negotiations sponsored by Egypt have picked up speed and moved forward to this interim stage since a German mediator took over and the Netanyahu government appointed Haggai Hadas as Israeli negotiator two months ago.
Tough bargaining remains over the 40-50 hard-core terrorist facilitators sentenced to life for bloody attacks whose release Hamas is demanding. Israel wants to have them exiled.

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