Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu met the Shalit family at the Tel Nof Air Base this morning and expressed his joy that their son and brother is returning home after five years of captivity in Gaza.
“I am delighted we’ve arrived at this day. In a short time Gilad will return to you,” Netanyahu told the Shalit family.
Netanyahu also told the family that they would be provided with pictures of Gilad as soon as possible.
Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit was set to return to Israel as part of a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas.
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) praised Netanyahu todayfor his “brave decision” to sign the deal with Hamas, and complimented Egyptian and German mediation that led to the deal eventually being sealed.
“Despite the enormously painful price that only Israel would consider paying, Jewish communities across the globe stand side by side with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Cabinet’s decision, and they salute Noam and Aviva Shalit for their courage,” said WJC President Ronald Lauder. “Their relentless struggle has finally paid off.”
“Prime Minister Netanyahu deserves much credit for taking a brave decision. Despite the heavy price that Israel will pay to Hamas, it was right to conclude the deal,” Lauder said, adding that “Hamas fights for the well-being of terrorists much more that it fights for the wellbeing of ordinary citizens.”
The WJC highlighted the “substantial” risk involved with returning hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, “including many directly involved in some of the worst terrorist attacks in Israel’s history,” to Gaza and the West Bank, and called upon the world community to support Israel in inspecting potential arms shipments from Iran and elsewhere attempting to supply Hamas with advanced weaponry.
Mitzpe Hila closes to visitors
Members of the Shalit family, parents Noam and Aviva, brother Yoel and sister Hadas, left this morning shortly after 6 A.M. for the Tel Nof Air Base. Gilad’s grandfather, Tzvi, and grandmother, Yael (Noam’s parents) were also to join them.
Noam arrived back to Mitzpe Hila Monday evening after a long day at the High Court. He chose not to talk to the media and rushed directly into his house.
The Yishuv attracted travelers and curios onlookers throughout the day, who chose to be photographed by the Shalit family home. On Monday evening, shortly after the news broadcasts ended, media personnel distanced themselves from the home, and the army police and Israel Police Force hermetically sealed the site.
There is currently no access to the path leading to the family’s home. The entire Yishuv will be closed to visitors and the front gate closed since Tuesday morning. Only the media will be permitted access to a pre-prepared stage.
A special brochure will be handed out this morning to the large audience expected to visit Mitzpe Hila, which has turned into a pilgrimage site. Among other things written in the brochure, is “We now need to be exhibit patience, allow Gilad – after 1,942 days – to return to daily life at his own rate.” Children of the Yishuv went from house to house, handing out t-shirts with the words, “Gilad, we’re waiting for you at home.” Residents of the Yishuv are preparing to wear the t-shirts and stand in a human chain upon his return.