Shalit video released to public; soldier says he is fine
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Sitting on a white plastic chair in front of a white wall and beneath fluorescent lighting, captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit held a Palestinian newspaper dated Monday 14 September and told his family he was in good health.
Reading from a paper hidden behind the Palestinian newspaper Filistine, Shalit told his friends and family that he missed them, and asked his government to work for his release. "I hope for the day I will be released. I hope the government doesn't waste this opportunity to carry out a deal," the Israeli daily Ynet translated directly from the Hebrew.
The soldier spoke in Hebrew and seemed in fine spirits, standing up and walking toward the camera to show he was in good health.
No other figures appeared in the recording, which lasted two and a half minutes.
The video can be seen in the following clip from Israel's Channel Ten.
A spokesman for the Shalit family told Israeli reporters they had okayed the release of the tape to the media. An Israeli official was also quoted by the Israeli press earlier in the day, saying Shalit looked lucid and in good health.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement after the media release of the video, saying he believed the video to be "important because it verifies Gilat Shalit's situation and determines that Hamas is absolutely responsible for his health and wellbeing." In a message to the Shalit family he warned the parents that "the path to Gilad's release is still long and arduous."
The release of the tape was part of a deal, negotiated by German intermediaries, that saw the release of 19 female prisoners Friday, with an additional prisoner to be released Sunday, in return for proof that Shalit was still alive and well.
The tape was received by Israeli officials early Friday morning, but was then reviewed, sources said, to make sure it was filmed within an acceptable window of time. Once Israeli officials gave the go-ahead, 18 of the female prisoners were released to the West Bank, and 1 to the Gaza Strip, where they were received in official ceremonies by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Gaza's de facto Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh respectively.
The female prisoners were thankful for their early release, but said they wished for all the other women and children held in Israeli prisons to be released as well.
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