Sgt. Maj. Gilad Shalit was brought to Egypt in the early morning hours on Tuesday, after more than five years of captivity in the Gaza Strip. To win his freedom, Israel agreed to release 1,027 Palestinian prisoners convicted of terror attacks against Israeli civilians.
Shalit appeared on Egyptian state television shortly after his release to discuss his captivity and offer his thanks. Looking very frail, very thin and extremely pale, the 25-year-old solider said he was in “good condition and in good health.”
An Israeli official told the Associated Press Tuesday, “We are all shocked that a so-called interview was forced on (Schalit).”
He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a sensitive diplomatic matter, but said the sentiment was widely shared in official Israeli ranks.
Asked whether Shalit will campaign for the release of the other Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, he said: “I would be happy if they are released, on condition that they stop fighting against Israel.”
He spoke in Hebrew, answering questions posed by an Egyptian journalist. His remarks were translated into Arabic and English. He was asked questions before he entered Israel or before he spoke to his family.
Here are more of his edited remarks, as reported by Washington Post special correspondent Ingy Hassieb:
“I had thoughts about this hope [of being freed] I felt it could take time, but I felt it could also happen. I felt this last week, but I had had a feeling all month long.
“Yes, I was living in isolation, but I also used to meet with some people, I lived with some people. I knew throughout this period that my family and many people felt hopeful about my freedom.
“Yes, I was following the news. If they wanted to secure my freedom, they had to pay a price for this. In my opinion, the Egyptian authorities were able to secure this deal because of their good relations with both sides, Hamas and Israel. I think that Egypt's relations with Hamas [helped secure the deal].”
“I think that I would feel better if Palestinian captives also manage to make it out. It's a good feeling. I received the news about a week ago, and then I started to feel different. I felt this way that the whole thing was confusing me. I feel very grateful to Egyptians and their efforts to achieve this deal.
“I miss doing what I want when I want it.
“It's a definitive moment. I feel I’m in good condition and in good health. It’s exciting to meet all those people who have been working all this time to free me from captivity, and I thank them all for their efforts.
“Of course I miss my family very much; I also miss my friends; and I miss meeting regular people, talking to them, telling them about my experience all those years in captivity.
“I hope this deal will help achieve peace between Israeli and Palestinian sides and to promote cooperation between the two sides.”