After over five years in captivity, it was announced on Tuesday, October 11 that abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit will be released in a prisoner exchange deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas. According to Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, over 1000 Hamas prisoners will be released in two separate stages in exchange for Shalit, which will take place within the next two months.
In June 2006, militants in the Gaza Strip captured a nineteen-year-old Shalit during a cross-border raid. The deal comes after the conclusion of several failed negotiations between the two parties over the past five years to release the young soldier.
Shalit will be officially released on Tuesday, October 18, as well as 477 prisoners. The list of prisoners is now available to the public, citing 315 as serving life sentences and 27 as female Palestinian prisoners.
David Median, head of Shalit negotiations, led an Israeli delegation in Cairo to negotiate a possible deal. Egyptian intelligence chief General Murad Muwafi and his aides mediated the deal between Median and Ahmed Al-Jabari, chief of Hamas’ military wing.
A secret emergency meeting was called for Tuesday, October 11, to approve the deal, which passed by a 26-3 vote. Netanyahu explained to reporters a “window of opportunity” opened up and that he had to act fast or risk never freeing Shalit.
Abu Obeida, spokesperson for Hamas’ military wing, confirmed the prisoner exchange deal.
Although the release is met with skepticism and fear by many, most are celebrating the release of Shalit and the conclusion of a multi-year national trauma.