(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.
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