Full Coverage: Gilad Shalit Returns Home

A wide array of news items on the historic Israel-Hamas deal

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(Click photos to download. Top Caption: Gilad Shalit salutes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after landing in an IDF airbase in the center of Israel on Tuesday. Bottom Caption: Gilad Shalit on the phone with his parents after arriving in Israel. Credits: IDF Spokesperson.)

Gilad Shalit Returns Home

The words that Israelis have been waiting to hear since that fateful day in June 2006 when Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was abducted by Hamas in a cross-border raid were finally spoken by Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Yoav Mordechai Tuesday morning near the Kerem Shalom border crossing.

“Gilad Shalit has returned home after five years and four months in captivity. He is with us today,” Mordechai said during a speech at around 11 a.m Tuesday.

A struggle spanning 1,941 days of nightmares, fears, and terror as well as insurmountable longing by his family and the nation for his return came to a dramatic end as Shalit set foot on Israeli soil again.

Shalit, now aged 25, did not have a single visit, either from his family or from the Red Cross, during his time as a hostage in Gaza. Upon his return to Israel and his arrival at the Tel Nof Air Force base, Shalit was greeted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who hugged him and told him, “Shalom, Gilad. Welcome back to Israel. It’s so good to have you home,” and then escorted him to his family.

In an emotional and long-awaited reunification, Shalit met his family for the first time since he was abducted. Netanyahu said to Shalit’s parents, Noam and Aviva, “I have brought your son home.”

“It entailed an extremely difficult decision,” Netanyahu said in a speech to the public following the Shalit family reunification. “I faced the need to return home someone who was sent by the state of Israel to the battlefield. As a soldier and commander, I was dispatched many times by the IDF for special operations, but with the belief that if I, or my friends, would be taken hostage, the government of Israel would do everything in its power to bring us home.”

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


(Click photo to download. Caption: Gilad Shalit, soon after arriving in Kerem Shalom, Israel on Tuesday. Credit: IDF Spokesperson.)How the Shalit Unfolded: A Minute-by-Minute Timeline

After nearly five and a half years in Hamas captivity in Gaza, without a single visit from the Red Cross, a doctor or his family, Gilad Shalit returned to Israel on Tuesday and at press time was on his way home with his family.

His release came about after Israel and Hamas, with the help of German and Egyptian negotiators, agreed on a prisoner exchange deal that will see 1,027 Palestinian prisoners released in exchange for Shalit.

On Tuesday, the complicated, multi-phased exchange began at dawn in a series of carefully executed steps.

5:38 a.m.: Red Cross officials arrive at Israeli prison to identify all prisoners cleared for release.

6:50 a.m.: Shalit family sets out from their home in Mitzpe Hila to the Air Force base in Tel Nof near Rehovot. “Even the policemen are smiling,” a Mitzpe Hila resident tells the media.

7:35 a.m.: Gilad Shalit is transferred from Gaza to Egypt via the Rafah border crossing in a convoy of Hamas vehicles.

7:41 a.m.: All Palestinian prisoners are put on Red Cross transport vehicles. Now they wait for the go-ahead from Egypt to commence the final exchange.

Just before 8 a.m.: Gilad Shalit arrives on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing and is officially in Egyptian hands. The IDF receives word that Shalit is in Egypt and allows the convoy of Palestinian prisoners to leave Ofer prison en route to Beitunia, near Ramallah.

8:03 a.m.: IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz makes his way to Tel Nof Air Force base in anticipation of Gilad Shalit’s arrival.

8:18 a.m.: Shalit’s family arrives at Tel Nof Air Force base. Noam Shalit, father of Gilad Shalit, says, according to Ha’aretz: “You can say this is one of the happiest days of my life.”

8:38 a.m.: Hamas confirms that Gilad Shalit has been transferred to Egypt.

9:31 a.m.: Unattributed reports emerge that two female Palestinian prisoners are refusing to be deported to Gaza, possibly holding up the exchange.

9:37 a.m.: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at Tel Nof Air Force base and meets with the Shalit family.

10:16 a.m.: IDF confirms that Gilad Shalit has been identified, alive and well, at the Egypt-Gaza border.

10:23 a.m.: First images of Gilad Shalit are broadcast on Egyptian television. These are the first photos shown of him in more than two years. Ahmad Jabari, the commander of Hamas’ military wing in Gaza, can be seen walking behind Shalit.

10:38 a.m.: Confirmation is received that Gilad Shalit has returned to Israel following more than five years of captivity.

10:44 a.m.: Shalit family, sitting in a private room at the Tel Nof Air Force base, see the first images of their son.

11:08 a.m.: Egyptian TV broadcasts interview with Gilad Shalit. “Hamas treated me well,” Shalit says.

11:55 a.m.: It is announced that prisoners will be released in Ramallah, not Beitunia, reportedly because protesters were burning tires at the scene. Palestinians awaiting the bus of prisoners become furious and clash with IDF in West Bank, throwing stones and beginning to riot. The IDF deploys tear gas and other crowd-control measures to calm the masses.

11:58 a.m.: IDF reports that Gilad Shalit has been positively identified at Rafah, and the prisoner exchange will commence.

Around 12:15 p.m.: IDF representatives meet with Gilad Shalit and begin moving him toward the Kerem Shalom border crossing into Israel.

12:16 p.m.: First video of Gilad Shalit is released, showing him greeted by IDF troops. Shalit is shown wearing glasses, and unconfirmed reports emerge that during his time in captivity he was not given glasses.

12:25 p.m.: IDF reports that prisoner transfer into Judea and Samaria, Israel and Egypt is complete.

12:45 p.m.: Gilad Shalit lands at Tel Nof Air Force base.

1:04 p.m.: Shalit is reunited with his family at the Tel Nof Air Force base.

1:09 p.m.: Netanyahu meets with Shalit, tells him: How good that you have returned home.

1:18 p.m.: Netanyahu speaks at press conference at Tel Nof Air Force base, says “Two years ago, I returned to the post of prime minister. One of the main and most complicated missions I found on my desk was to return Gilad Shalit home alive and well. Today that mission was accomplished.”

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


A Tired Shalit Promotes Peace in Egyptian Television Interview

Israel Defense Forces Sergeant First Class Gilad Shalit told Egyptian television on Tuesday that he was most looking forward to seeing and speaking with family and friends after returning to Israel following nearly five and a half years in Hamas captivity.

Looking tired and pale but in otherwise good health, Shalit, now 25, breathed heavily during an interview conducted for Egyptian state television during the midpoint of his elaborate transfer to Israel from Gaza.

In his first television interview since being freed, Shalit answered a series of questions delivered by reporter Shahira Amin after being transported across Egypt's Rafah border crossing with Gaza but before crossing into Israel. According to Israel Radio, the interview was arranged by Egyptian intelligence. It was unclear whether or not Shalit agreed or was coerced into the televised conversation, but during the nearly ten-minute interview, he breathed heavily and hesitated often.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


List of Released Prisoners Includes Notorious Terrorists

The names of some of the most notorious terrorists in Israeli history, including the masterminds of several suicide bombings and kidnappings, appear on the Israel Prison Service’s list of 1,027 security prisoners released in exchange for Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit.

Ahlam al-Tamimi was one of the masterminds of the 2001 Sbarro pizzeria bombing in Jerusalem.

Muna Amna lured a 16-year-old boy from Ashkelon to Ramallah, where he was then murdered by two Fatah terrorists.

Mohammed Shratkha, serving three life sentences, was the leader of a terrorist cell that captured and murdered Ilan Sa’adon and Avi Sasportas.

Walid Anajas, sentenced to 36 life sentences, was involved in the Cafe Moment bombing in Jerusalem in 2002 and in another terror attack in Rishon Lezion.

Also released are several perpetrators involved in the violent and videotaped October 2000 lynch of IDF reservists Vadim Nurzhitz and Yossi Avrahami in Ramallah. Overall, the list of released prisoners includes 280 Palestinians serving life sentences and 100 serving multiple life sentences for their involvement in suicide bombings.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


Ahmadinejad Calls Prisoner Swap ‘Belittling and Humiliating for the Zionists”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad congratulated Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, and the entire Palestinian nation over the Gilad Shalit prisoner-swap, calling it a “great victory.” Ahmadinejad stressed the deal was “belittling and humiliating for the Zionists.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has always been by the side of the oppressed Palestinian nation and the resistance movement and will always support the ideals of that noble and oppressed people,” the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

Regarding the prisoner swap, in which 1,027 Palestinian prisoners were freed in exchange for Gilad Shalit, Ahmadinejad said, “Beyond doubt, this prisoner exchange was a great victory for the great Palestinian nation and for all Muslims, for the freedom and justice seekers of the world and for the independent nations, who are happy side by side with the oppressed Palestinian people.”

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


Turkey: We will absorb 40 of the terrorists released from Israel

Forty of the prisoners released as part of the exchange deal to free Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit will be transferred to Turkey and will spend the next few years there, the daily Turkish newspaper Radikal reported over the weekend. According to the report, other prisoners will be sent to Europe, although their names and their countries of destination were not listed.

Meanwhile, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported that Turkey was chosen as a destination for released prisoners over other possible locations such as Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, because in those nations Hamas holds great influence, raising the potential that the prisoners will engage in further terrorist attacks.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

Likud Minister: Convicted Terrorists Should be Sentenced to Death, Not Swapped

Israel should seek the death penalty for terrorists so as to avoid a repeat of prisoner swaps like the deal struck for Gilad Shalit’s release, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said on Sunday.

“We are paying a heavy price—some say too heavy—for Gilad’s return,” Katz told a holiday gathering of some 2,000 Likud activists. The prisoner swap involved the release more than 1,000 terrorists in Israeli prisons in exchange for Shalit.

Katz, a close associate of the prime minister, said those who perpetrate deadly terrorist acts against Jews should be sentenced to death, to show the world that “the rules have changed.”

“We will not let killers of Jews be swapped again through extortion tactics,” said Katz, who voted in favor of the Shalit deal but did so hesitantly.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

All Released POWs to be Classified as Having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

All Israel Defense Forces soldiers who have previously been prisoners of war will now automatically be recognized as having post-traumatic stress disorder, the Defense Ministry said. The new classification means that IDF veterans will no longer have to prove their disorder to a medical panel.

To be classified as disabled veterans, however, prisoners of war will still be required to attain approval from a Defense Ministry rehabilitation department committee. This comes despite a previous announcement that such a classification would also become automatic.

The committee’s earlier announcement claimed that the Defense Ministry had authorized a request put forth by MK Israel Hasson (Kadima), calling for Gilad Shalit to be recognized as an IDF disabled veteran immediately upon his return to Israel.

“The decision will allow us, as a state and as a nation, to provide the required minimum to all those same combat soldiers that have returned from captivity so that they will be able to return to normalcy,” said Hasson.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

Posted on September 5, 2011 and filed under Israel.