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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Israeli Soldier Freed

Gilad Shalit was released in exchange for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners on Tuesday.

Sgt. Gilad Shalit embraces Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu as he arrives back in Israel on Tuesday.  (AP)
Sgt. Gilad Shalit embraces Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu as he arrives back in Israel on Tuesday. (AP)
An Israeli soldier kept in Hamas captivity for five years was freed on Tuesday, to the delight of thousands of Israelis across the country.

Gilad Shalit was greeted with a hero's welcome upon his return to Israel late Tuesday.  Thousands of people stood on rooftops, singing songs, waving Israeli flags and popping champagne bottles.  Shalit briefly waved to the crowd before ducking into his family's house.  Police blocked the streets to give Shalit and his family privacy.

Before being flown across the Gaza border to be reunited with his family, Shalit spoke to Egyptian TV in an interview Israeli officials later called "shocking."  Shalit, who appeared thin, weary and dazed, seemed to have trouble speaking at times.  His breathing was also noticeably labored as he fielded reporters' questions.

Still, he said he felt good and was "very excited" to be going free.  But the circumstances of his release, as well as the awkward interview, raised questions about the conditions the 25-year-old solider had endured.

Shalit's release is part of an agreement that Israel would release 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange, many of whom are serving life sentences for deadly attacks on Israelis.  477 of them were released on Tuesday, and the rest will be released in a second phase in two months.  40 others were deported from the area altogether, sent to Jordan, Qatar, Syria and Turkey.

An intense media campaign to free Shalit has made him a national symbol in Israel.  Media outlets across the country held special live broadcasts on Tuesday, depicting every step of the exchange.  Many broadcasters' voices cracked with emotion as it became clear that Shalit would be coming home.

A tweet from the United Nations released a statement from the Spokesperson to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon regarding Shalit's release: "@UN Ban Ki-moon views release of #GiladShalit & 100s of Palestinian prisoners as a significant humanitarian breakthrough"

"[The Secretary-General] has long called for the end of the unacceptable captivity of Gilad Shalit and has also called for the release of Palestinian prisoners," the statement said.  "In the aftermath, the Secretary-General hopes that more far-reaching steps will be taken to end the closure of Gaza and enable reconstruction."


[...] TV News: Israeli Soldier Free COMMENTS Leave a [...]

My heart goes out to Shalit and his family, but Israel should never agreed to let the Palestinian murderers go. It was unfair to the families and their victims, but even worse-it's only a matter of time before these same people hurt or murder innocent families again.

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