The video of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has stirred emotions in Israel. The sign he is still alive came at a price; the liberation of 20 female Palestinian prisoners.
But how close has the prisoner release brought Shalit’s freedom? Hamas, his captors, wants hundreds of prisoners freed. Shalit’s father only wants his son back as quickly as possible: “We expect the completion of this task of his return home very soon. 1200 days and long nights is a long time,” he said. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is encouraged by the video he says the road ahead is long and hard before Shalit returns home. This has nonetheless been the first of any sort of agreement between Israel and Hamas. Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said that for the Palestinians it was a day of victory. Some of the freed women had mixed feelings, sad to be leaving still-imprisoned comrades behind. In Syria Hamas’s Khaled Meshaal, speaking in Damascus, promised his organisation would be seeking to capture more Israeli soldiers in order to free all Palestinians in Israeli prisons: “The Palestinian resistance that was able to capture Shalit and treat him well is able to capture Shalit and Shalit and Shalit until there is no single Palestinian in Israel’s hands.” Meshaal also urged Arab leaders to abandon peace initiatives because they had proved useless, and said the Palestinian’s goals would be won through resistance, not begging at talks tables.