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Update – 12 October 2011: Breaking News – Gilad Shalit release deal

Posted by Emily Gian on 12 October 2011 at 10:00am:

“Wake up, Gilad is coming home”, was the SMS I was woken by this morning. Gilad is coming home… four seemingly simple words, and yet, these words have eluded Gilad Shalit’s loving family and the rest of the world for 1,935 days.

But after over five years, this morning has brought us the news that a deal has been made with Hamas to bring kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit home in the coming days in exchange for at least 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. According to sources, 450 prisoners will be released before Gilad is released and another 550 to be released after (see more). No names of Palestinian prisoners have been officially released but it has been said that all women prisoners are being released, and among the others being released, many are serving life sentences. There have been reports that one of the most notorious terrorists, Marwan Barghouti, who is responsible for the murder of scores of Israelis and a Greek Monk, is on the list, but Israel is denying this. For more information on the possible list, click here.

It is being reported that the Israeli Cabinet will vote in favour of the deal, despite members of Yisrael Beiteinu and Likud having voiced their opposition to freeing terrorists in exchange for Gilad Shalit (see more).

In his speech to the Israeli Cabinet last night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touched on the difficult choices and decisions facing the nation, “There is an inbuilt tension between the desire to bring back an abducted soldier, or citizen, and the need to maintain the security of the citizens of Israel. This is my dual responsibility as Prime Minister. The deal I am bringing to the Government expresses the right balance between all of these considerations. I do not wish to hide the truth from you – it is a very difficult decision. I feel for the families of victims of terror, I appreciate their suffering and distress, I am one of them. But leadership must be examined at moments such as this, being able to make difficult, but right, decisions. I believe that we have reached the best deal we could have at this time, when storms are sweeping in the Middle East. I do not know if in the near future we would have been able to reach a better deal or any deal at all. It is very possible that this window of opportunity, that opened because of the circumstances, would close indefinitely and we would never have been able to bring Gilad home at all” (see PM Netanyahu’s full statements here).

I can understand the bittersweet feeling this must be for the Israeli people, as it is difficult to come to terms with the idea of releasing terrorists with so much Israeli blood on their hands. I cannot imagine how the families of victims of terror must be feeling. But every time I think of Gilad Shalit, hopefully alive, languishing in a dark dungeon in Gaza, it is hard to believe that the government would not do everything in their power to bring him home.

Hamas Chief Khaled Mashaal has also confirmed that a deal has taken place, claiming that it will include a “VIP list” of prisoners Israel was previously reluctant to release. He said, “we wanted to include as many prisoners in the deal as possible but we couldn’t free everyone”. He vowed “to keep fighting for the release of those left in prisoner… We promise you – you will be freed” (see more). At such a heavy price for Israel, there is a very real worry that Hamas and other terror groups will continue to use this tactic of kidnapping Israeli soldiers in order to achieve their aims.

The next few days will be a waiting game for Gilad’s family, for Israel and for the rest of the world, but I, along with so many others, will be hoping and praying that Gilad will be returned home quickly to his loving family. I cannot even begin to imagine how his family must be feeling at this moment.

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Please keep Gilad in your thoughts and prayers over the next few days and let us hope that this five-year long nightmare can finally come to an end. 

Best wishes,

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