Captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit free after five-year ordeal
Freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit at an army base near the Kerem Shalom crossing near Gaza (AP)
Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit ( גלעד שליט - born 28 August 1986) was abducted on 25 June 2006 by the Hamas terrorist organization near the border with Gaza in a cross-border raid via underground tunnels, and held in isolation without medical care or Red Cross visits for over five years until he was released yesterday - 18 October 2011 - in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian convicted prisoners, including hundreds convicted of carrying out criminal terror attacks against Israelis.
Shalit was abducted near the Kerem Shalom crossing in Israel, and was held as a hostage at an unknown location in the Gaza Strip. Throughout more than five years in isolation and captivity,Hamas refused requests from the International Committee of the Red Cross to allow the ICRC to visit Shalit. Red Cross Director-General Yves Daccord stated that: “The Shalit family have the right under international humanitarian law to be in contact with their son”. Hamas, which maintains in its founding charter the directive to annihilate Israel and establish strict religious Islamic law, claimed that any such Red Cross humanitarian and medical visit could have betrayed the location where Hamas was holding Shalit hostage.
Multiple human rights organizations have stated that the terms and conditions of Shalit's confinement were contrary to international humanitarian law. The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, which released a report in September 2009, also called for Shalit to be released. In its 27 May 2011 Deauville Declaration, the G8 demanded the release of Gilad Shalit.
Shalit's capture was often referred to as a kidnapping, because he was not granted any of the human rights due to a captured soldier under the Geneva Conventions, which entitles them to receive visits from the Red Cross and to communicate with family members, and because a ransom, even if not of a monetary nature, was demanded for his return.
In exchange for his release, Hamas demanded the release of over 1,000 prisoners—Palestinians serving prison sentences in Israel—as well as all female and underage Palestinians convicted and serving sentences. A major sticking point in negotiations for the release of Shalit was Hamas' insistence on the release of Marwan Barghouti, currently serving five life sentences in Israel for murder.
Shalit was the first Israeli soldier kidnapped by Palestinian militants since Nachshon Wachsman in 1994. Shalit, holding a rank of corporal in the IDF's Armor Corps at the time of his abduction, has since been promoted to Staff Sergeant and Sergeant First Class. The only contact between Shalit and the outside world after his kidnapping were three letters, an audio tape, and a DVD that Israel received in return for releasing 20 female Palestinian prisoners.
Welcome home Gilad! We never lost faith for you!
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