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Images of Gilad Shalit post-release

Reuters

October 18, 2011 | 7:26 am

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, watches as Gilad Shalit, center, is hugged by his father Noam at Tel Nof air base in central Israel in this handout released by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) on Oct. 18. Photo by REUTERS/GPO/Handout

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, watches as Gilad Shalit, center, is hugged by his father Noam at Tel Nof air base in central Israel in this handout released by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) on Oct. 18. Photo by REUTERS/GPO/Handout

Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit returned home to a national outpouring of joy on Tuesday after five years in captivity as hundreds of Palestinian prisoners exchanged for him were greeted with kisses from Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip.

Shalit, 25, was taken across the frontier from the Gaza Strip into Egypt’s Sinai peninsula and driven to Israel’s Vineyard of Peace border crossing, where a helicopter awaited to fly him to an Israeli air base for a reunion with his parents.

Political commentators said it appeared unlikely the prisoner exchange agreed by the two bitter enemies would have any immediate impact on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that broke down last year.

The mood in Israel was one of elation, with “welcome home” signs on street corners and morning commuters watching live broadcasts of the swap on cellular telephones.

Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit (C) is escorted by members of Hamas and Egyptian mediators on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing Oct. 18. Photo by REUTERS/Middle East News Agency (MENA)/Khalid Farid/Handout.


Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit (C) is escorted by members of Hamas and Egyptian mediators on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing Oct. 18. Photo by REUTERS/Hand Out/HAMAS


Gilad Shalit speaks to his family on the telephone in this handout released by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on Oct. 18. Photo by REUTERS/IDF/Handout.


Gilad Shalit, center, salutes in front of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, upon his arrival at Tel Nof air base in central Israel in this handout released by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) on Oct. 18. Photo by REUTERS/GPO/Handout


Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, greets Gilad Shalit at Tel Nof air base in central Israel in this handout picture released by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) Oct. 18. Photo by REUTERS/GPO/Handout


Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, stands beside Gilad Shalit as he is hugged by armed forces chief Major-General Benny Gantz at Tel Nof air base in central Israel on Oct. 18. Photo by REUTERS/PMO/Handout

Gilad Shalit, right, is hugged by his father Noam at Tel Nof air base in central Israel in this handout released by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) on Oct. 18. Photo by REUTERS/GPO/Handout


Gilad Shalit walks with his father Noam, right, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak at Tel Nof air base in central Israel, in a photo released by the Prime Minister’s Office on Oct. 18. Photo by REUTERS/PMO/Handout


Israelis cheer as they watch a television broadcast showing Gilad Shalit, at a former protest tent calling for his release, near the residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Oct. 18. Photo by REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun


Israeli activists remove a sign counting the number of days since the abduction of Gilad Shalit, at a former protest tent calling for his release, near the residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Oct. 18. Photo by REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun


Gilad Shalit is seen next to his mother Aviva as they go for a short walk outside their home in Mitzpe Hila on Oct. 19. Photo by REUTERS/Nir Elias.

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