Gilad Shalit: I haven’t seen people in a long time – He hopes prisoner exchange leads to peace – Video

Shalit tells Egyptian television that he is in good health and his Hamas captors had treated him well, but he missed his family and speaking to people
First words: “I thought I’d find myself in this situation for many years to come”

Haaretz

Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit said Tuesday that he had been treated well by his Hamas captors during the five years he was held hostage, telling Egyptian television in the first interview following his release that he was relieved to finally be surrounded by people.

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Gilad Shalit with GOC Southern Command Major-General Tal Russo

Speaking through a translator, Shalit said he would be very happy if remaining Palestinians held in Israeli prisons were freed to return to their own families.

“Of course I miss my family very much. I also miss my friends,” he said. “I hope this deal will lead to peace between Palestinians and Israelis and that it will support cooperation between both sides.”

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The border gate closes as Palestinian prisoners enter Gaza via the Rafah crossing from Egypt October 18, 2011
Ma’an Photo By Andrew Winning

“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.

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Shalit, 25, looked tired and dazed, hesitating as he replied to questions from an Egyptian TV reporter. Speaking through a translator, Shalit said he was in good health and that he hoped his release in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons would lead to peace between the two peoples.

“Of course I miss my family very much. I also miss my friends,” he said. “I hope this deal will lead to peace between Palestinians and Israelis and that it will support cooperation between both sides.”

Shalit also said he would be very happy if remaining Palestinians held in Israeli prisons were freed to return to their own families, “as long as they do not return to attacking Israel”.

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Aviva and Noam Shalit, parents of Gilad Shalit

Shalit said he was informed of his impending release about one week ago. He said he had feared he would remain in captivity for “many more years” and remained afraid that “things may go wrong.”

Israel and Hamas agreed through Egyptian mediation late last Monday on a deal that secured Shalit’s release in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. Shalit officially passed into Israeli custody on Tuesday morning.

Al Jazeera contributed to this report.

See Related: San Francisco gathers to witness the release and homecoming of Gilad Shalit October 19 8:00 AM

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive

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