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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Back To Life, Gilad Shalit


20.37 Richard Spencer, who has been in Mitzpe Hilareporting on the amazing scenes of the day, looks at Shalit's last 24 hours and the 'rebirth of a son', as his father Noam Shalit, put it:
No one knew how he had stood up to the rigours of solitary confinement. He was also injured by shrapnel during his kidnapping.
He fell ill during his first helicopter ride, and there were fears he would have to be taken straight to hospital. But though said to be suffering from malnutrition and lack of sunlight, he was passed fit to travel on.
His frailty highlighted the irony that it was the bookish and shy Gilad Shalit who had been seized. "He's quiet," said Avishay Mazor, 26, another friend. "He doesn't bother anyone, not even a fly. He just wanted to be left in peace, like his family."
20.31 Stephen Adams, the Telegraph's Medical Correspondent, writes that the last five years will have had a negative impact on his health. Shalit struggled to breath during a TV interview, and Israeli military officers said he showed signs of malnutrition. One British expert, Dr Walter Busuttil, medical director at the chairty Combat Stress, who helped treat British captives Terry Waite and John McCarthy said it could take him years to recover.
QuoteIf I was looking at him now I would be asking him about his sleeping patterns and meals, as these would both have been interrupted by his incarceration...
The first thing I would give him is a watch, to give him back a sense of control over time.
That's the first thing that would have been taken away from him...
19.45 Daniel Taub, the Israel's UK ambassador, writes forThe Telegraph that Shalit's return is a testament toIsrael's love of life.
At its root, the decision to make the deal was not won by pragmatic arguments or realpolitik. We are bringing Gilad home, and paying the painful price, not because we know that this is the correct strategic decision, but because of our profound conviction that it ought to be. The bittersweet joy of the moment presents a challenge to us all. If this indeed is not a world in which placing supreme value on a single human life is the best course of action, then let us work to make it one.
19.30 The Telegraph's Adrian Blomfield has more on Palestinian militants vowing to abduct a "new Gilad Shalit" to use as leverage against the Jewish state.
For optimists, the exchange represented a moment of hope that perhaps, after years of bitterness, the end of so painful a saga could mark the beginning of a new era in Israeli-Palestinian relations. Prompted by his Egyptian interviewer, Sgt Maj Shalit claimed to share such optimism, saying: "I hope this deal will lead to peace between Palestinians and Israelis and that it will support cooperation between both sides".
18.18 Other former captives have warned that coping with liberty again can prove emotionally difficult. Shalit himself earlier said that he was "on edge" after not having seen people for such a long time.
Mickey Zeifa, an army reserve coloneol held as a prisoner of war by Egypt in the 1973 Middle East War told Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper Shalit will require careful management.
QuoteIt takes a very long time for a person to get back on course ... you mustn't crowd him...
In my case ... the celebrations around me, which at first were flattering and moving, brought me down. Sometimes the return is a trauma in and of itself, no less difficult than captivity.
18.00 Egyptian prime minister Essam Sharaf has hailed the prisoner swap, which was mediated by Cairo, saying it was part of efforts to boost regional stability. He stressed these objectives "will be achieved through a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian question."
17.36 Barack Obama, via his spokesman Jay Carney, has said he was "personally pleased" that Shalit had been freed, adding that he wants Israelis and Palestinians to take steps toward resuming peace negotiations.
QuoteEach side needs to take steps that make it easier to return to negotiations rather than harder.
17.18 Noam Shalit, Gilad's father has addressed a crowd outside their family home. He thanked the Israeli government, Benjamin Netanyahu and the IDF as well as activists campaigning for his son. He said that his son, while very happy to be home, found it hard to be exposed to the big crowds of lots of people after being alone and isolated for so many days, where he could not communicate to anyone in his language.
He said his son will go through rehabilitation, with the help of the IDF, adding "we hope he can go back to a normal life." He also revealed that his son was suffering from afew shrapnel wounds and complications due to a lack of sunlight.
QuoteWe are today finishing a long journey, a tiring and long journey that started in June 2006 ...
As you saw today, he came back, went down the stairs came into the house through the door which he left so long ago...
Gilad is feeling well. He has a few light wounds... shrapnel wounds... also complications due to lack of sunlight.
Today we can say that we've gone through a rebirth of a son. I would like to thank the whole crowd, the public who gathered here today. You came to support Gilad with such a warm turnout, supporting in solidarity...
Unfortunatly Gilad will not be able to come out, but thanks to the pilot of the chopper who brought us here who flew twice over the village. Gilad looked down and waved at the crowds...
We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Israeli government, the prime minister, who took this hard decision, not an easy one unfortunately. I must say that even for us this deal was not easy.
As we stood yesterday at the court with the bereaved families, we sympathise with them, we understand their pain. We understand the price they are paying for Gilad's freedom...
We hope that this great crowd and the media will understand us and will let us go back to our normal lives as soon as possible...
When I met Gilad I didn't say much, I just gave him a big hug, and I said if I remember correctly 'Welcome', but mostly a strong hug.
Noam Shalit, father of Gilad, speaks outside the family home in northern Israel

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