rafah border crossing_311 reuters.
(photo credit: Ismail Zaydah / Reuters)
Hamas has freed kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit from more than five years in captivity, handing him over on Tuesday to Egyptian officials who will shortly pass him on to the Israeli authorities, a Hamas military source told Reuters.
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There was no immediate confirmation from Egypt or Israel that Schalit had been released.
Security prisoners hold off on celebrating early releases
As part of a carefully orchestrated prisoner swap, Israel was due to free 477 Palestinian prisoners during the day, with a further 550 set for release at a later date.
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.
From Rafah, Schalit will 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
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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
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.
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