|Shalit says he would be ‘very happy’ if all Palestinian prisoners held by Israel could be freed [Al Jazeera]|
Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who has been released as part of a swap deal with Hamas, has said he would be “very happy” if all Palestinian prisoners still held by Israel could be freed “as long as they don’t continue fighting against Israel”.
Speaking to Egypt’s Nile TV, Shalit, who had been held in captivity for five years, said “I hope this deal will help the conclusion of a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.”
Israel and Hamas agreed to Tuesday’s swap through Egyptian mediation that secured Shalit’s release in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.
Shalit, who told the interviewer he had been informed of his impending release one week ago, said: “I hope co-operation and links between the two sides will be consolidated.”
The 25-year-old soldier, who appeared overwhelmed and faint, said that he had been treated well by his Hamas captors during the years he was held hostage.
“I’m very emotional. I haven’t seen people in a long time. I missed my family. I missed seeing people, and talking to them,” he said.
Israel caught ‘off guard’
Shalit was handed over to Egyptian authorities at the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.
At the same time, groups of Palestinian prisoners were being sent by bus to Gaza via Rafah, where celebrations have begun.
Cal Perry, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Jerusalem, said: “It is unclear whether the interview was planned” and the Israelis “seemed a little off guard by the pictures”.
Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, warned Shalit’s parents, Noam and Aviva, that the video images of their son were about to air.
“No one was expecting to hear Shalit say anything,” Perry said.