“People Want a New Shalit”
In an unprecedented sign of victory to Palestinians and defeat to Israel, 1,027 Palestinian detainees will be freed 477 of which were freed today in the first tranche of an Egyptian-mediated deal that saw the Israeli captured soldier Gilad Shalit released.
This is the heaviest price Israel ever paid for one of its soldiers.
Throngs of excited Palestinians gathered in the West Bank and Gaza from early Tuesday, preparing to greet prisoners released. Dozens of Palestinian detainees’ families were chanting, cheering and waving welcoming their beloved detainees .
Chants of "The people want a new Shalit," could be heard as Hamas and Fatah supporters waved flags together as part of large scale celebrations.
Hundreds of Arab 48 Palestinians gathered at the entrance of Umm el-Fahm on Tuesday morning to celebrate the release of a resident of the town who were released as part of the deal.
Crowds were waving green flags of the Hamas movement, which inked the landmark exchange deal with the Israeli occupation. The atmosphere was festive, with some chanting "national unity, national unity" and clapping their hands.
Hamas has declared Tuesday a national holiday and erected a giant podium in Gaza City's Al-Katiba Park, where the prisoners appeared after they cross into the Palestinian enclave from Egypt.
Prime Minister Ismail Haniya and members of the de facto Hamas government in Gaza, leaders of other factions, relatives and tens of thousands of onlookers welcomeed the prisoners and PA President Mahmoud Abbas delivered a speech in this occasion.
Gilad Shalit returned to his family on Tuesday after five years of being held captive. "Gilad has returned home," the Israeli army's chief spokesman Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai told reporters after the soldier crossed into Palestinian occupied territories after first being handed to Egyptian officials by Hamas. He described Shalit's state of health as "good and satisfactory."
Shalit's homecoming was kept far from the media eye, with the first glimpse of him being several seconds of footage from Egyptian state TV, which showed him wearing black baseball cap and a loose grey shirt.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has said that the prisoner swap marks a positive step towards “peace”. "The recent announcement of the exchange of prisoners is welcome, it is a positive movement for peace," he said.