In his first public statements freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit told the Egyptian TV that he hopes the prisoner swap deal will lead to peace between Israel and Palestinians.
“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 said that he is “very excited” and that he was in “good health” to be released after five years in captivity in the Gaza Strip.
“I feel like I am in good health,” Shalit said in Hebrew.
Wearing a checkered shirt and smiling occasionally, Shalit took short breaths as he narrated how he heard of his release one week ago.
Speaking through a translator, Shalit said he would be very happy if the remaining Palestinians held in Israeli prisons were freed to return to their own families.
Thanking the many people who had worked for his release, he said he had been told of his impending freedom after five years incommunicado at about the same time as news of the deal was publicized: “I received this news a week ago and I felt then that this would be my last chance to be free,” he said.
Shock in Israel
“They were long years,” Shalit said. “But I always thought the day would come when I finally get out of captivity.”
An Israeli official said he was shocked by the surprise interview Shalit gave to Egyptian TV minutes after he was released from Hamas captivity.
A gaunt and weary Shalit awkwardly answered the questions from an Egyptian journalist before he was allowed to speak to his family or enter Israel.
The Israeli official said Tuesday, “We are all shocked that a so-called interview was forced on (Schalit).”
Captured in June 2006 by Palestinian militants who tunneled out of the Gaza Strip to attack Shalit’s tank crew on the border, the Israeli conscript was last seen in a 2009 video shot by his captors.
Hundreds of Palestinians are being freed in exchange for Shalit under the deal between Gaza’s Hamas Islamist rulers and the Israeli government that was brokered by Egypt.