Sunday, February 25, 2024

Israel welcomes Shalit swap with mixed emotions

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JERUSALEM/GAZA: Israelis welcomed on Wednesday a major prisoner swap that will free soldier Gilad Shalit after five years in captivity in return for the release of 1,000 Palestinians, but emotions were mixed over the lopsided exchange negotiated with Hamas.

”We are proving, for who knows how many times, that each of our soldiers is a world unto himself, and we will make a supreme effort to bring him home. The deal is a tough one, but it was the best possible to reach in these conditions,” Home Front Security Minister Matan Vilnai told Israeli Radio.

He said the terms thrashed out since secret negotiations got serious about three months ago did not give the Islamist group Hamas, who hold Shalit, everything they asked for.

”We got the maximum we were able. And we are again proving that we will make supreme efforts to bring our soldiers home. It’s the case for every family living in Israel,” Vilnai said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won overwhelming cabinet approval for the swap at a special night-time session. He had been under constant public pressure to bring Shalit home.

But some ministers opposed the agreement, warning it would encourage more hostage-taking by militant Palestinians.

Uzi Landau, Minister of National Infrastructure, was one of three in the 29-member cabinet who did not back the deal.

Hamas and its supporters in the Gaza Strip have threatened to abduct more Israeli soldiers until all 6,000 Palestinians are free from Israeli prisons.

Over 300 of the Palestinians to be released are serving life terms for violent attacks, according to Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal. (UNI)

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