One prisoner for a thousand

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 October, 2011, 12:00am



What's happened? Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and hundreds of Palestinians crossed Israel's border in opposite directions on Tuesday. Shalit had been held as a captive in Gaza for five years. After years of failed attempts to get him released, Israel agreed to exchange him for more than 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. Many people on both sides rejoiced, but the move did little to ease the long conflict.


Who is Gilad Shalit? He is 25 years old and a French-Israeli citizen. After his kidnapping by Palestinian militants, he was held as a hostage by the militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza. Shalit was kept in isolation at a secret location.


When was he captured? On June 25, 2006, Hamas militants tunnelled into Israel from the Gaza Strip. During an armed raid, they killed two Israeli soldiers and captured Shalit.


Where was he released? Shalit was taken across the border from the Gaza Strip into Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. He was driven to an Israeli border crossing, from where a helicopter flew him to an air base for a reunion with his parents.


Why was he snatched? Hamas likely kidnapped Shalit to use him as a bargaining chip with Israel. By returning him, the group wanted the release of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. Many of them were condemned to long sentences on terrorism charges. So why is his freedom particularly important? Shalit's case became a national issue in Israel. For years, many Israelis had been calling for his release.


How did Israel get him back? Israel tried repeatedly to rescue him with military force but didn't succeed. Eventually it agreed to a prisoner swap.