More than 400 Palestinians were returned to their homes in exchange for an Israeli soldier October 18. The prisoner swap, facilitated by the Egyptian government, has marked a significant milestone in the relationship between the three countries.
The Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who had been in Hamas custody since 2006, was removed from Egypt by Israeli officials and was taken to the Tel Nof air force base. He was later returned to his hometown of Mitzpe Hila.
In an interview in Egypt, Shalit stated, “I will be very happy if all Palestinian prisoners are freed so they can go back to their families […] I hope this deal could help reach peace between Israelis and the Palestinians and strengthen cooperation,” revealing his optimism despite years in captivity.
However, Shalit also admitted that frequent raids on Gaza by Israeli troops would quickly fill prisons with new prisoners, replacing those returned to Palestine.
While 550 more prisoners are to be freed in a second phase of the deal, there are still roughly 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli custody for various charges.
Should Israel not comply with the exchange of prisoners, some Palestinians advocated the capture of more Israeli soldiers, given the favorable ratio they received in this deal.
Sources: Al Jazeera; Associated Press, Oct. 18, 2011.