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Time in Palestine

New video of Gilad Shalit

October 4, 2009 

Video shows captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit looking well

Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, Friday 2 October 2009 21.43 BST

Israel received a two-minute video of captured soldier, Gilad Shalit, after it asked Hamas for ‘proof of life’. Source: Reuters Link to this video

Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured near Gaza more than three years ago, appeared unhurt and in good health in a video recording received by the Israeli government yesterday.

Shalit spoke, walked briefly towards the camera and held a newspaper that was less than three weeks old.

Although it was not the first proof that he is alive ? there have been audio recordings and letters in the past ? it was the first time he has been seen on video.

The film, obtained in return for the release by Israel of 20 female Palestinian prisoners, suggests that German intelligence officers, who joined mediation efforts this summer, are making progress in the case. However, Israeli officials said that there was still considerable negotiation to go before Shalit was freed.

In the tape, which lasts around two and a half minutes, Shalit, 23, sits on a plastic chair against a plain wall indoors. “Hello. This is Gilad, son of Noam and Aviv Shalit, brother of Hadas and Yoel, who live in Mitzpe Hila,” he says. He gives his Israeli identity card number and appears to be in good health, although he has a sallow complexion and dark rings under his eyes.

He wears a green military-style uniform and holds a copy of Falasteen, a Palestinian Arabic newspaper published in Gaza. “I read the newspaper in order to find information about myself, and in hopes of reading about information of my return home and my imminent release,” he says, reading from a text. “I hope the current government headed by Binyamin Netanyahu doesn’t waste this opportunity to reach an agreement and as a result, allow me to fulfil my dream and be released.”

Shalit sends his love to his family and says is hoping “for the day I’ll see them again”. He says he feels well and that the “mujahideen from the al-Qassam Brigades are treating me excellently”. Shalit is being held by Hamas, and the al-Qassam Brigades are the Hamas militant wing.

The tape was delivered by a German mediator to Israel early on Friday and was watched by security officials and the army chief, Gabi Ashkenazi, as well as Netanyahu. Then 19 female prisoners were released, driven by Red Cross vehicles into the occupied West Bank. A 20th prisoner will be released into Gaza tomorrow.

Israel has said the deal was suggested by mediators as a “confidence-building measure”, particularly given that Red Cross staff have not been allowed to visit Shalit. But Israeli officials have warned that there is still a long way to go. “Although the path to his release is still long and difficult, the knowledge that he is healthy encourages us all,” Netanyahu said.

Israel has launched a series of military raids in Gaza over the past three years that have left hundreds of Palestinians dead and has imposed a severe economic blockade, in part it says because Shalit is still being held. Hamas says it will release Shalit in return for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, but the two sides have so far failed to reach an agreement on a deal.

The female prisoners were all serving short sentences and were not directly involvement in the killing of Israelis. More than 7,000 Palestinians are held in Israeli jails, nearly 400 without charge.