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A recent controversial agreement between Israelis and Palestinians has led to the release of one Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in return for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Gilad Shalit, now 25 years old, was captured by Hamas at the age of 19. He was held captive in Gaza after his 2006 kidnapping.
The decision of releasing 1,000 Palestinian prisoners came just one week ago, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided it to be imperative for the return of Shalit. Shalit returned to Israel on October 18. Gilad Shalit was taken by Hamas militants to Egypt, where the swap was finalized.
Shalit was welcomed back into Israel by hugs from his family, as well as Prime Minister Netanyahu and Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, Israel’s military chief. He was seen to be thin and frail. After medical examinations, Shalit has shown to have malnutrition signs and a lack of exposure to the sun.
Shalit stated in an interview of the conditions of the prison he was held in, stating that he was in solitary confinement most of the time. Shalit’s father explained in an interview that his son received harsh conditions at the beginning of his imprisonment, but the conditions improved as time went on.
“I knew all along that my family and many people in Israel are doing everything possible in order to release me,” said Gilad Shalit in an interview with Egyptian television.
Thousands of Israelis descended onto the streets to celebrate the arrival of Shalit. Israelis were singing, cheering, and opening bottles of champagne upon his release. People waved the Israeli flag as Shalit was ushered to his home to be with his family.
Although there was a large support for Shalit’s release and return to Israel, many Isarelis do not agree with the recent events. The unbalanced proportion of released Palestinian prisoners comes as a shock to many. Many family members of those who were killed by Palestinian prisoners are opposed to their release.
Many of those who were released for Shilat were imprisoned for life sentences. Their charges include the deaths of Israelis through a number of attacks. Nasser Yateima killed 30 Isarelis in a hotel bombing in 2002, occurring on the Jewish holiday of Passover. Abdel Aziz Salha assisted in the deadly stabbing of two Israeli soldiers when they made a wrong turn into the West Bank.
An overwhelming crowd of support greeted the Palestinian prisoners as they returned home. As per the agreement of the prisoner swap, 450 Palestinian prisoners were released from Israeli captivity. The second group of prisoners which total 550, will be released in two months time.
The West Bank and Gaza lit up with jubilation as people celebrated in the streets. Thousands of supporters greeted the newly released prisoners with green flags, the dominate color associated with Hamas. Hamas has controlled Gaza through militant tactics. The release of these 1,000 prisoners in exchange for one Israeli soldier comes as an undeniable success in the viewpoint of Palestinians.
Palestinian crowds loudly chanted “The people want a new Gilad.” This message displays the idea that if more Israeli soldiers are kidnapped, future prisoner swaps can be created, potentially leading to the release of hundreds more Palestinian prisoners.
Image Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/idfonline/