Gilad Schalit expected home after 1,941 days in captivity

IDF finalizes preparations for prisoner swap; PM, Barak and IDF chief Gantz, together with parents to greet Gilad at Tel Nof base.

October 18, 2011 03:04
2 minute read.
"We are waiting for you at home, our Gilad"

"We are waiting for you at home, our Gilad". (photo credit: Reuters)

After 1,941 days in Hamas captivity, Gilad Schalit is scheduled to return to Israel on Tuesday in a complicated prisoner swap that will see the release of 1,027 Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons.

Overnight Monday, the IDF finalized preparations for the swap and moved all of the Palestinian prisoners slated for release to various points throughout the country from where they will be transferred to Egypt, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and inside the country.

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Schalit is expected to be transferred to the custody of the International Red Cross early Tuesday morning and will cross into Egypt via the Rafah crossing in southern Gaza. He will then cross into Israel and will be taken to a nearby base for a preliminary medical exam.

On Monday, OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Tal Russo declared Israel’s border crossings with Egypt and Gaza a closed military zone ahead of the swap.

After the medical exams, Schalit will be flown to the Tel Nof Air Force Base where he will be reunited with his family after more than five years in Hamas captivity.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to arrive at Tel Nof early Tuesday morning and supervise the carefully-choreographed swap.

Schalit will be greeted at Tel Nof as he gets off the helicopter by Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, who are to usher him a short distance into a private meeting with his parents.

Netanyahu gave directions to the security establishment to do everything possible to move the process ahead quickly so that Schalit can be swiftly reunited with his parents.

Once the family reunification begins in Tel Nof, Netanyahu is expected to leave the base and issue a brief statement to the press stationed outside.

He is expected to say that this is both an emotional and difficult day, and that Israel is blessed to have Schalit return. Our nation is different in that we do not celebrate the release of murderers, and do not carry on our shoulders those who destroyed lives, he will say.

According to officials in his office, Netanyahu decided on a low-key ceremony out of consideration for the sensitivities of the families of the terrorist victims, for whom the day on which those who murdered their loved ones are released from prison is not a day of celebration.

Schalit will then board the helicopter with his parents and, after nearly five and a half years, return to his home in Mitzpe Hila.

Click for full JPost coverage of Gilad Schalit

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