(1986 - )
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Gilad Shalit (19 at the time of his abduction, 25 at the time of his release) was born on August 28, 1986. He is the son of Aviva and Noam Shalit, brother to Yoel and Hadas and both an Israeli and French citizen. Gilad was kidnapped when his army unit was attached by Hamas terrorists and after more than five years being a captive to Hamas, Shalit was set free and returned to Israel on October 18, 2011.
Shalit was born in Nahariya but was raised from the age of two in Mitzpe Hila in the western Galilee. He graduated with distinction from the science class of Manor Kabri High School. Shalit began his military service about a year before his abduction - at the end of July 2005. Despite a low medical profile, he preferred to serve in a combat unit, and followed his elder brother Yoel into the armored corps.
On June 25, 2006, Shalit, a corporal, was captured in a cross border raid near the Kerem Shalom crossing to the Gaza Strip by Palestinian terrorists and has been held hostage by Hamas since that time. During the attack, in which the terrorists dug underneath the border before emerging and subsequently spraying automatic fire and grenades, two IDF soldiers (Pavel Slutsker and Chanan Barak, z'l) were killed and three other soldier were also wounded.
The following statement was released by the IDF immediately following the attack in which Shalit was captured:
The IDF immediately launched Operation Summer Rains in which infantry units advanced into Gaza in an attempt to secure the release the immediate release of Shalit. The operation though was unsuccessful and within a matter of weeks the Hezbollah abduction of soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev into Lebanon turned Israel's attention to their northern flank. Israel initially stated that it would not negotiate for the release of Shalit, but international intervention from Egypt, Germany and the European Union helped in efforts to work out an exchange deal.
On August 28, 2011, Israel marked Shalit's twenty-fifth birthday - his sixth while in captivity. In anticipation of his birthday, Shalit's parents - who had begun camping outside the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem as a sign of public protest more than a year earlier in 2010 - released a letter they hoped would reach Gilad. In the letter, the parents wrote, "You must believe that we do not forget you, we do not forget the fact that next Sunday you will be 25 years old, that this is your sixth birthday in captivity, that more than a fifth of your young life has been spent in a dungeon, a Hamas pit."
The last sign of life released by Hamas came in October 2009 when the terrorist organization released a video of the soldier in which Shalit could be seen reading a written message that called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to do everything in his power to free him.
In June 2011, the International Red Cross called on Hamas to provide proof that Shalit was still alive but the group balked at the request.
On September 7, 2011, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, released a statement calling on Hamas to release Shalit. "As I have said repeatedly in the UN Security Council, Hamas must immediately and unconditionally release Gilad Shalit," Rice said.
Finally, on October 11, 2011, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the signing of mutually agreed upon exchange deal to secure the release of Shalit. Put together with help from German mediators and the Egyptian government, the deal stipulates that Israel will release 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in a staggered move over the following months. The Government approved the agreement by a large majority in its Cabinet of 26 ministers in favor and 3 against.
During the discussions outlines were heard by the heads of the security services–Director of the Shin Bet Yoram Cohen, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Director of the Mossad Tamir Pardo. and the Prime Minister's special envoy to the negotiations David Meidan. The heads of the security services presented the agreement and its various aspects and expressed their support in it.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "This is a difficult decision to make, but a leadership is examined in moments like these, in its ability to make difficult decisions. I am bringing Gilad Shalit home, to his parents Noam and Aviva, his brother Yoel, his sister Hadas, his grandfather Zvi, and the people of Israel."
In the early afternoon of October 18, 2011, Gilad Shalit was set free and returned to Israel and his waiting parents after 1,940 days in Hamas captivity. In the exchange with Hamas, Israel released 477 Palestinian prisoners and received their captive soldier in return. Preliminary medical and psychological exams were performed on Shalit at an IDF base in the south of the country and he was deemed healthy and strong enough to meet his parents and travel home.
Shalit was promoted to the rank of sergeant first class.