"I hope we see [captured soldier Gilad Schalit] home soon, along with all other MIAs," IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said Tuesday, amid reports that a deal to release the soldier, held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza for over three years, was imminent. Speaking during a tour of the western Negev town of Sderot, Ashkenazi said that "it would be unwise to say anything more than what I have already said." Sderot Mayor David Buskila, who accompanied Ashkenazi on his tour, expressed his hope that Israel would do all in its power "to bring this boy home. It's an uneasy decision both for the political and the military echelons. We hope he can light Hanukka candles in his home." Ashkenazi also referred to the situation in the southern town, which was battered by missiles and rockets fired by Gaza-based terrorists for more than eight years prior to Israel's Operation Cast Lead last winter. "I am happy to visit here under these circumstances," he said. "I am happy that the intolerable reality here changed considerably. We are determined not to go through another seven-year span [of attacks from Gaza] and I am convinced we will attain this goal." "This town deserves tranquility and normal life. The IDF, operating not far from here, will be an active participant in maintaining this. We will keep on ensuring the town gets what it deserves: quiet, security and normal living," he added. During a meeting with local high-schoolers in a recently inaugurated youth center in Sderot, Ashkenazi was asked whether the policy on securing the release of fugitives should be changed. "As commander of a military that sends its troops on dangerous missions, we are making every effort to prepare them and equip them as best we can so that they can come back home in peace. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. But as future recruits you should know the IDF does not abandon wounded soldiers and captives. "This is how we acted in the past and this is how we'll continue to act in the future. It is not helpful getting into details at this moment. But I can look you in the eye as the commander of the military and as the person who sent Gilad on his mission and say that we will do everything to bring him back. Until this happens the mission is not accomplished," Ashkenazi said.