barak watching schalit video 248 88.
(photo credit: Defense Ministry)
After watching video footage of captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday said that while the road to his release is still long, the fact that Schalit is alive is an encouraging sign
"Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu watched the video of Gilad Schalit in his office and has spoken with Noam Schalit," a statement read by the prime minister's media spokesman said.
"The prime minister believes the importance of the tape is in putting the responsibility for Gilad's health and wellbeing squarely on Hamas's shoulders. The prime minister says that even though the release of Schalit is still far from us, the video is an encouraging sign," the statement continued.
On Friday evening, Netanyahu was briefed by intelligence officials who analyzed the video tape of Schalit. According to Army Radio, experts formulated an updated assessment of the captive soldier's health and of the conditions in which he is being held.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke with Noam Schalit and Zvi Schalit, Gilad's grandfather, at around 2 p.m., just minutes after the family viewed the video, according to a statement issued by Barak's office.
The defense minister told the Schalits "I want to hug you. Gilad looks healthy, and this fact only further puts into focus my own responsibility and the responsibility of all of us to bring him home."
A statement issued by the Elysee Palace in Paris called for the "immediate, unconditional release of Schalit." Schalit holds dual Israeli-French citizenship and his father Noam has been lobbying with French President Nicolas Sarkozy to help in securing the release of his son.
The two-minute long clip shows Schalit addressing Netanyahu and his parents Noam and Aviva, telling them he is being treated well by the Hamas and is in good health, but yearning for the day on which he will see his family again. Schalit is seen clean shaven with a fresh haircut, wearing dark green clothes.
The video clip was received in return for the release of 20 Palestinian female prisoners. Israel released 19 of them on Friday morning, 18 to the West Bank and one to Gaza. The 20th prisoner will be released Sunday, after it turned out that a prisoner released Wednesday was finishing her sentence anyway and would therefore be released regardless of the deal.