Gilad Shalit freed: Israel agrees to swap 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for lone captive soldier

Israel has agreed to swap 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for a lone soldier held by Gaza’s Islamist rulers.
The deal to release Gilad Shalit resolves one of the most emotive issues in the Middle East.
Shalit, then 19, was captured by militants who tunnelled their way out of Gaza and forced him back over the border in 2006.
Prized prisoner: Captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is to be swapped for thousands of Palestinian prisoners as part of the peace deal
Prized prisoner: Captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is to be swapped for thousands of Palestinian prisoners as part of the peace deal
Glad tidings: Aviva Schalit, mother Gilad, receives the news of the prisoner exchange
Pressure: Noam Shalit, father of Israeli soldier Gilad, at a protest tent outside the residence of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem
Happy families: Aviva Schalit, Gilad's mother, receives the news of the exchange and, right, father Noam Shalit
Celebrations: Palestinian members of Hamas celebrate a deal that will see Palestinian detainees freed in exchange for Shalit
Celebrations: Palestinian members of Hamas celebrate a deal that will see Palestinian detainees freed in exchange for Shalit
The pact is virtually certain to improve the  climate for restarting peace talks that have been stalled for over a year.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that the deal was 'finally summarised and both sides signed'.
In the Gaza Strip, a Hamas spokesman said: 'We are in the process of completing the technical arrangements to complete the deal within days.'

A source involved in the talks said the talks had been mediated by Egypt. The handover will be done in two stages, with the first 450 prisoners being swapped for Shalit and the remaining 550 freed later.
The exchange was sure to be greeted with relief by both sides.    
A campaign by Shalit’s family has made him a cause celebre in Israel and his release a test for Netanyahu’s government. The Palestinians have long clamoured for the release of hundreds they consider political prisoners.
Hope: The family of Hassan Salame celebrates that could see the Hamas leader, imprisoned for life, released
Hope: The family of Hassan Salame celebrates that could see the Hamas leader, imprisoned for life, released
Israeli television quoted Netanyahu as telling Shalit’s parents that ever since he took office three years ago 'I’ve been waiting for the chance to make this telephone call” to inform them of the deal.    
The wife of Marwan Barghouti, a charismatic activist seen as a future Palestinian leader, told Reuters in the West Bank that she was eagerly awaiting word that he will be included in the prisoner swap.    
In Gaza, the families of men jailed for life by Israel awaited word that their names would be on the list.    
The main sticking point in earlier negotiations had been Israel’s reluctance to meet Hamas’ demands to free prisoners convicted of involvement in lethal attacks against Israelis.    
Israel has carried out several lopsided prisoner swaps in the past, notably in 1985 when hundreds of Palestinian prisoners were freed in exchange for several soldiers captured by a guerrilla group in Lebanon.    
The ordeal of Shalit, a fresh-faced corporal, transfixed Israel after the tank gunner was captured by militants who tunnelled their way out of Gaza and then forced him back over the border.   
Masked men: Palestinian militants of Hamas celebrate in the streets of the Gaza Strip
Masked men: Palestinian militants of Hamas celebrate in the streets of the Gaza Strip
He was 19 at the time and had begun his mandatory three-year army service nearly a year previously.
Shalit, a native Israeli who also holds French citizenship, was last seen in a videotape released by his captors in September 2009 showing him looking pale and thin.    
He received no visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross, despite many appeals.
Defiant gesture: Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal
Defiant gesture: Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal
Britain welcomed a deal to secure the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit after more than five years in captivity.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said he hoped the prisoner swap agreement between Tel Aviv and Hamas officials would help 'build confidence and trust”.
Shalit was captured in a cross-border raid by Palestinian militants in June 2006, and dragged into Gaza. Little has been known about his fate since then.
But Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced in a televised address this evening that the deadlock on the issue had been broken.
The soldier will reportedly be released in exchange for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
Egyptian and German diplomats are believed to have played a significant role in the negotiations.
Mr Hague said: 'I welcome the agreement between Israel and Hamas to release Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, next month as part of a prisoner exchange.
'Holding him in captivity has been utterly unjustified from the beginning and yet it has gone on for five long years.
'We have always called for his unconditional release. We are pleased that this long overdue development is finally taking place.
'Mr Shalit’s long captivity has been painful for his family and I hope that he will be reunited with them as soon as possible.
'The UK supports all such efforts to build confidence and trust between all parties.'
 
 
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