On this day: Gilad Shalit Released from Hamas captives

When one Israeli became worth 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.

October 18, 2018 17:12
2 minute read.
Gilad Shalit returning to Israel this year

Gilad Shalit 521. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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On October 18, 2011, Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was returned to Israel after being held captive by Hamas since June 25, 2006.

In exchange for his release, Israel freed 1,027 Palestinian prisoners belonging to Hamas and other terror organizations on October 18, 2011.

On the day of his release, Egyptian military officials received Shalit from Hamas control on the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing and updated the IDF command post at the Kerem Shalom crossing of the transaction earlier on Tuesday morning.

As a result, Israel transferred all the Palestinian prisoners to be released to Gaza and the West Bank to Red Cross buses.

Upon passing into Israel, Shalit was guarded by soldiers of the Israel Air Force's 669 unit, who accompanied him until he was home safe in Mitzpe Hila.

As part of a carefully orchestrated prisoner swap, Israel freed 477 Palestinian prisoners on that day, with a further 550 set for release at a later date.

The night before, 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 were transferred to Egypt, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and inside the country.

From Rafah, Shalit crossed into Israel and was taken to a nearby base for a preliminary medical exam.

Five years prior, Cpt. Shalit, 19 at the time was stationed on the Gaza border in a tank crew when Hamas militants tunneled into Israel, shot and killed two of his fellow tankers and took Shalit prisoner in Gaza.

During his capture, Shalit's father Noam ran an aggressive campaign to free his son and famously sat vigil in front of the Prime Minister's residence for five years.

The price Israel had to pay for Shalit's return can be seen throughout the seven years since this controversial exchange.

The country has been involved in two military operations in Gaza: Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 and Protective Edge in 2014 where soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul were killed and their remains are still held by Hamas.

Goldin's family, taking a cue from Shalit, has also launched a campaign to retrieve Hadar's remains.

Later that year, two Israeli citizens who both suffer from psychiatric disorders crossed into the strip and have yet to be returned to Israel: Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.

Mengistu and Sayed have been missing for three years and their cases are viewed by Israel as a humanitarian issue unrelated to the cases of Goldin and Shaul, but Israel has made it clear that it holds the group responsible for the safety of both.

The terrorist organization has attempted to use all four as bargaining chips in negotiations for prisoner releases.

Yaakov Katz, Anna Ahronheim and Herb Kenion contributed to this report

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