On Tuesday, 25-year-old Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released back to his family after being held for nearly six years in Gaza. In his hometown, he was welcomed back by an ecstatic crowd of family, friends and well-wishers.

That same day, Israeli authorities released 477 Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners back to their families in a prisoner-swap agreement that Hamas and Israeli authorities reached earlier this month. Egyptian security and intelligence officials mediated the negotiations in Cairo.

Under the deal, Israel has agreed to release an additional 550 Palestinian prisoners in the next two months. More than 5,000 Palestinians remain in Israeli jails.

Freed Israeli Soldier Gilad Shalit Returns Home
Israelis react after seeing the first images of Israeli Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit on TV following his release on October 18, 2011 in Mitzpe Hila, Israel. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)


Twenty-seven women were among the released prisoners on Tuesday, and thousands of supporters took to the streets in Gaza to celebrate the trade.

Among the detainees not released were Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Sa'adat, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Analysts say the swap will bolster Hamas’ popularity among Palestinians, but also acknowledge that many Israelis supported Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in making the exchange. Publicly, both Netanyahu and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal are claiming a “victory.”

However, some in Israel opposed the release. Opponents say the released prisoners could continue to threaten Israel.

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