Gilad Shalit Released: Israeli Soldier Freed In Exchange for 1000 Palestinians

Gilad Shalit, an Israeli Soldier who has been in Hamas captivity on the Gaza Strip for the last five years, was released today. Shalit returned to Israel Tuesday morning looking frail and gaunt, but otherwise healthy.

The Washington Post reports that Shalit’s release came with the condition that Israel release 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. A total of 477 prisoners were released from Israeli prisons today after Shalit touched Israel soil for the first time in five years.

Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, an Israeli army spokesman, said:

“Gilad Shalit has returned to his country, his homeland and his family. For over five years we have been… with Gilad Shalit. Today, Gilad Shalit is with us.”

Shalit said in a brief interview with an Egyptian news channel:

“I thought that I would find myself in this situation many more years… I missed my family. I missed friends, meeting people to talk to people, and not to sit all day, to do the same things.”

But not everyone is happy with Shalit’s release. The Washington Post notes that the unbalanced deal (1 Israeli for 1,027 Palestinians) could encourage Hamas to kidnap more soldiers in the future.

The Associated Press reports that Hamas celebrated the prisoner exchange, saying that it proved the strength of the Islamic Militant movement. Thousands raised Hamas flags on the Gaza Strip as they awaited the first bus loads of released prisoners.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted Gilad Shalit upon his arrival to Israel. Netenyahu said:

“How good that you have returned home… On this day, all of us are united in happiness and pain.”

Do you think the Israelis made a mistake by exchanging 1000 Palestinian criminals for Gilad Shalit?