“I am very excited” and “happy,” a frail but seemingly healthy Gilad Shalit said on early Tuesday in a carefully staged interview with Egyptian state television, his first public remarks since being released by the radical Islamist Hamas movement.
Shalit, in a pale blue buttoned shirt, appeared anxious during the interview with the Egyptian journalist. He was breathing heavily, looking pale, speaking hesitantly and at times struggled to answer her questions.
Asked when he was told he would be set free in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, he said: “I received the news about a week ago. I can’t describe my feelings then, but I felt I had hard moments ahead of me… But I was also worried these contacts could go wrong,” he said.
He spoke in Hebrew, after an interpreter translated the questions, which were asked in English.
The interviewer also asked him whether he would campaign for more than 4,000 Palestinian militants still jailed in Israel.
“I would be happy if they were released, so that they can go back to their families,” he replied, but added he hoped “they won’t go back to fighting against Israel.” “I hope very much that this deal will advance peace.” Asked about his ordeal, he said, “of course I missed my family,” adding that he was looking forward “to meeting people, to talking to people” and “not doing the same things all day long.” “I think that the Egyptians succeeded, because they have good relations both with Hamas and with Israel,” he replied, when the interviewer made a point of stressing that it had been the Egyptian National Security which mediated his release.
Apart from a few letters, one audio recording and one videotape released to Israel, Shalit was held incommunicado for more than five years in an unknown location in Gaza.