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Gilad Shalit Turned Over to Egypt, Headed to Israel

4:23 AM, Oct 18, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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The New York Times reports: 

The Islamist Palestinian group Hamas on Tuesday released an Israeli soldier it captured more than five years ago as hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israel waited on buses to start their journey to freedom in the West BankGaza and exile through Egypt in an elaborate exchange.

The Israeli soldier, Sergeant First Class Gilad Shalit, was taken from Gaza into Egyptian territory in the early morning in the company of Egyptian and Red Cross officials. He was to be transferred into Israel and taken by helicopter to an air base south of Tel Aviv where top officials — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, the military chief of staff — and his family awaited his arrival. 

Hamas officials in Gaza said that they had handed Sergeant Shalit over to the Egyptians. Mosque loudspeakers awakened the Gaza populace at dawn with cries of “God is great” and “Victory to God.”

The Jerusalem Post reports:

Egyptian military officials received Schalit from Hamas control on the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing and updated the IDF command post at the Kerem Shalom crossing of the transaction earlier on Tuesday morning.

As a result, Israel transferred all the Palestinian prisoners to be released to Gaza and the West Bank to Red Cross buses. Israeli officials are awaiting word that Schalit has entered Israel, after which the prisoners will be transferred to the West Bank and Gaza via Egypt.

Upon passing into Israel, Schalit will be guarded by soldiers of the Israel Air Force's 669 unit, who will accompany him until he is home safe in Mitzpe Hila.

As part of a carefully orchestrated prisoner swap, Israel was due to free 477 Palestinian prisoners during the day, with a further 550 set for release at a later date. 

For more, read Elliott Abrams's piece here

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