Entries in Gilad Shalit (4)


US Objected to Release of Some Palestinians Swapped for Israeli Soldier

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The United States objected to the release of some of the 477 Palestinian prisoners released Tuesday in exchange for a captured Israeli soldier because they were involved in attacks on Americans, the State Department said Tuesday.

“We have looked at some of these individuals and we’ve communicated our position after we became aware that specific individuals have been identified as part of this release,” State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said. He said, however, that the State Department welcomed the release of Gilad Shalit, who had been held in Gaza for more than five years by the militant group Hamas.

“As a matter of principal, the U.S. opposes the release of individuals who have been convicted of crimes against Americans,” he added.

Toner declined to identify the individual prisoners of concern. He said he was unaware whether Israel had chosen not to release any of the individuals due to American concerns.

A State Department official, speaking anonymously in order to discuss the sensitive issue, confirmed that multiple individuals were released despite the American objections.

The Shalit case was big news in Israel. His family camped out in front of the prime minister’s office for years to keep pressure on the Israeli government to secure his release. When the prisoner swap, which will ultimately send about 1,000 jailed Palestinians back home, was announced last week, it was also met with concerns that Israel was giving up too much for Shalit’s freedom and that it could set a precedent for future hostage situations.

The Israeli cabinet voted to approve the swap last week and on Tuesday Shalit was greeted in his hometown by cheering crowds waving Israeli flags.

Israel is reportedly considering another prisoner swap, this time with Egypt in exchange for an Israeli-American student who was arrested there and accused of spying for Israel.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


"We Have Experienced The Rebirth of a Son," Says Shalit's Father

Freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit (R) is greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) at Tel Nof Airbase on October 18, 2011 in central Israel. Avi Ohayon/GPO via Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Israeli Sgt. Gilad Shalit returned home for the first time since being captured by Hamas militants in 2006 and was greeted by throngs of people dancing in the streets of his home village, Mitzpe Hillal.

"Today we can say that we have experienced the rebirth of a son," Noam Shalit, Sgt. Shalit's father, said during a press conference. "Gilad is very happy to be home...[He] walked back through the same door he exited 1,942 days ago."

Noam Shalit said the first thing the family did was hug and sit down together for a meal.

"He hasn't told us much so far," Shalit said. "[Gilad] said the conditions were very bad at first, but then improved."

According to Noam, Gilad needs to recover from a shrapnel wound, lack of sunlight and the effects of five years in prison. He hopes it won't take too long for his son to "return to a normal life."

In exchange for Gilad's release Israel and the Palestinians began a controversial and lopsided prisoner swap in which Israel is releasing 1,027 Palestinians for Gilad's freedom.

"This deal is not easy," Noam Shalit said, referring to the price other families are paying for the freedom of his son.

Gilad Shalit was taken across the border and into Egypt early Tuesday in an SUV filled with armed men who quickly returned to Gaza.

In his first public comments on Egyptian TV, Shalit said that he is "very excited," and commented, "I hope this deal would contribute to the peace between Israel and Palestinians," he said Tuesday. "I will be very glad if they will be freed but they should not fight Israel anymore, it should be as part of a peace process and there should not be more wars."

Shalit has also received support from the French government, being of dual Israeli and French nationality. The French ambassador to Israel ended a short visit with the Shalit family extending an invitation from French President Sarkozy to the Champ Elysee.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hamas Frees Israeli Soldier Held for Five Years

Elana Levi-Zrihan(JERUSALEM) -- An Israeli soldier held by the militant group Hamas for more than five years was turned over to Egypt Tuesday as part of a swap of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Gilad Shalit will be flown to central Israel for a medical check-up before he reunites with his family.

In turn, the first 447 Palestinian detainees are being released, many of whom were sentenced to life in prison.

The deal, announced last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and brokered by Egyptian mediators, is supported by 80 percent of Israelis, according to a recent poll.

Shalit was captured in June 2006 after Palestinians had dug a tunnel to attack an Israeli outpost.  The Israeli Army then launched a major offensive to win the soldier's freedom but the operation failed.

Before Tuesday, the last proof Shalit was still alive was in 2009 after Hamas released a tape in exchange for Israel freeing several prisoners.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Israeli Soldier Held by Hamas to Be Released

Family Photo. Elana Levi-Zrihan(JERUSALEM) -- Israel and Hamas said Tuesday that a deal had been struck to exchange Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Shalit, held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip for more than five years, would be home in the “next few days.”

Gilad Shalit, a 25-year-old dual citizen of Israel and France, was captured during his service in the Israeli army in 2006 when Hamas militants entered Israel and kidnapped him. His contact with the outside world has been limited to three letters, a number of audio tapes, and one video of him released in 2009. Hamas refused a request by the International Red Cross to visit Shalit, fearing that it might give away his location.

Now, Hamas says it will release Shalit in exchange for more than 1,000 Hamas prisoners who are being held in Israeli prisons. Past deals between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas for Shalit have fallen through at the last minute, but both sides said Tuesday that the deal will happen this time.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal trumpeted the “national achievement” of exchanging 1,027 Palestinians prisoners “for just one Israeli prisoner.” He said the release of Palestinian prisoners would take place in two stages, with 450 to be released in the coming days and the next 550 within two months. Among the prisoners to be released are 27 women and 315 men serving life sentences.

It is not clear when or where Shalit would be released.

Netanyahu convened a special meeting of his full cabinet Tuesday to discuss and vote on the swap, saying at the beginning of the meeting, “if all goes as planned, Gilad will be back in Israel in the next few days with his family and his people.”

Though he has not been seen in five years, Shalit’s face and name can be seen on banners and signs throughout Israel, as thousands of Israelis joined his parents’ public crusade to bring him home.

In 2010, the Noam and Avivia Shalit, Gilad’s parents, marched from their home in northern Israel to Jerusalem to stand in front of Netanyahu’s residence and put pressure on the government to increase prisoner exchange talks. Joining them on the march were about 10,000 Israelis. Shalit’s father, has slept outside Netanyahu’s residence in a tent for much of his son’s imprisonment.

Shalit’s imprisonment hits home to all Israeli parents because everyone except for those with religious exemptions are required to serve in the Israeli armed forces. Shalit, who decided to enter the combat division because his older brother Yoel had served there, had been in the army for less than a year before he was abducted.

Shalit, then 19, was captured by militants on June 25, 2006, when Hamas soldiers crossed through underground tunnels into Israel’s side of the southern Gaza Strip border and attacked the tank he was in. Two other Israeli soldiers died in the attack, and three more were injured. Shalit became the first Israeli soldier captured since 1994.

Netanyahu had been unwilling to release the prisoners demanded by Hamas because of their association with violent attacks on Israel, but the prime minister appears to have changed his mind.

"It is a very difficult decision,” said Netanyahu. “I feel for the families of victims of terror, I appreciate their suffering and distress, I am one of them. But leadership must be examined at moments such as this, being able to make difficult, but right, decisions.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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