Who Is Gilad Shalit?
In a statement released by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “I believe that we reached the best agreement that could be achieved at this time, when storms are buffeting the Middle East. I don’t know whether the near future would have enabled us to achieve a better agreement, or an agreement at all, and it is very likely that this window of opportunity created by current circumstances would have closed for good, and we would not have brought Gilad back at all.”
Gilad Shalit’s story has captivated Israeli public support. Since his kidnapping, there have been international petitions demanding his freedom, rallies across the world in his support, letters of support to the Red Cross and a Facebook page that has garnered over 303,000 likes.
Born in Israel in 1986 to French parents, Gilad led a normal life for his first 18 years. According to Stand for Israel, he was described by neighbors and friends as well-mannered, shy and close to his family. After graduating from high school, Gilad was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 2005. His older brother, Yoel, served in a combat unit, and although his pre-army medical tests declared him less-then-robust and thus eligible to serve in a low-risk assignment, he chose to follow in the footsteps of his brother and go into combat as a part of the IDF Armored Corps unit.
Reuters reported that Gilad's unit was based in southern Israel close to the Gaza Border.
On June 25th, 2006, eight heavily armed Palestinian fighters crossed into Israel from Gaza in an underground tunnel. They ambushed Gilad’s base with rockets and gunfire. Gilad’s tank was hit with a rocket. Of the four soldiers in his tank two, included Gilad, were injured and two were killed. The fighters, identified as members of Hamas, took the injured Gilad from his tank and carried him across the border.
During the time he has been held captive, his captors have not allowed the Red Cross to visit him, have denied him contact with his family, and not conveyed reliable information on his physical health according to Y News.
Y News reported a timeline of the contact between Gilad and the outside world in his captivity. in 2006, the first letter from Gilad was sent from captivity. In 2007, his voice could be heard on an audio tape made public by Hamas. In 2008 two letters were conveyed to Israel from Gilad through third parties.
Then, in 2009 a video DVD was released where Shalit is recorded to have said: "Hello, this is Gilad, son of Noam and Aviva Shalit, brother of Hadas and Yoel, who lives in Mitzpe Hila. My ID number is 397029. As you can see I am holding today's Falasteen newspaper published in Gaza. I read the newspaper in order to find information about myself, and in hopes of reading about information of my return home and my imminent release...I hope the current government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu doesn't waste this opportunity to reach an agreement and as a result, allow me to fulfill my dream and be released...I want to tell you that I feel well in medical terms, and that the Mujahidin from the al-Qassam Brigades are treating me excellently. Thank you very much and goodbye."
It is unclear how much of the information sent by Gilad has been dictated by his kidnappers.
For Gilad's family, they are both overjoyed and anxious for their son's return. As reported by The Guardian, his mother, Aviva said, "This joy is mixed with a great deal of fear," said his mother, Aviva. "It is obvious that he won't be the same boy we sent off.
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