Schalit with Hamas 311 R.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Gilad Schalit's captors provided him with a stationary bicycle, a radio
and paper on which to draw and chronicle his captivity, according to
officials who disclosed preliminary details of the freed soldier's
ordeal on Sunday.
RELATED:Schalit undergoes surgery to remove shrapnel Abbas to build homes for prisoners released for Schalit
Repatriated from Gaza last month in a German-
and Egyptian-mediated prisoner swap, the gaunt Schalit said at the time
that being kept incommunicado had been hard but hearing news of Israel's
efforts to recover him had buoyed his spirits.
has said it treated him well, an account largely dovetailing with that
of two non-Palestinian officials briefed on the 25-year-old
"They [Hamas] had a vested interest in
keeping him in good shape, so they did what they could, providing him
with a stationary exercise bike and a range of food," said one official,
who would not be identified by name or nationality.
decrepitude, officials said, was due to depression from his five years
of isolation, lack of sunlight and shrapnel wounds from his capture that
received only superficial treatment to fend off infection. He underwent
surgery to remove the shrapnel last week.
An IDF spokeswoman declined to discuss the conditions of Schalit's captivity, citing privacy concerns.
His father, Noam, said after the Oct. 18 swap that Schalit had endured
"difficult experiences," but did not elaborate. Asked whether this
referred to deliberate physical abuse, the officials briefed on
Schalit's case said it was too early to know. "He gave relatively little
information after his release, and the fuller debriefings will take
time," said one official.
Another was doubtful that Hamas would have endangered Schalit's life
with torture, especially if the motivation was malice: "As for a
interrogation - why? What useful information could someone that junior,
an Israeli tank crewman, have for them?"
In 2009, Hamas released a proof-of-life videotape of Schalit. Another
film was made later but never published, the officials said. His captors
supplied him with paper on which to draw and keep a journal, as well as
a radio with which Schalit monitored broadcasts from Israel, where he
was a cause celebre.
According to both Schalit and Hamas, he also had access to a television,
though this might have been later on in his captivity as the
Palestinians improved his conditions in anticipation of the deal freeing
1,027 of their jailed compatriots by Israel.
"The media campaigns by his family, the vigils outside the government
buildings, even the songs aired about him all proved their worth - at
least, in terms of letting Schalit feel he was not being forgotten," one
Schalit found another diversion in building up an understanding of
Arabic from observing conversations between his captors, though they
generally spoke to him in Hebrew.
"They ate with him and they also played with him," Saleh al-Arouri, a
senior Hamas official, told Reuters last week. "They interacted with him
in order to keep his mental condition good."
According to another official, Schalit reported being able to overhear,
from his cell, women and children nearby. That suggests Hamas kept him
in a residential area - something likely to vex Israel, whose security
services admitted failing to locate the soldier for a possible rescue