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The Middle East celebrates a day of freedom

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The Middle East celebrates a day of freedom


It was a momentous day in the Middle East, a day for freedom for one Israeli soldier, release for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. The world watched, the politicians spoke and families were re-united.

A motorcade along the roads of his hometown was the final journey for Gilad Shilat through a jubilant crowd who had waited for this day for more than five years after he had been snatched in cross border raid from Gaza.

A medical team had assessed the 25-year-old, his grandfather said he was in much better health than they had expected. Wearing his army uniform Shalit and his family disappeared into their home.

Celebrations broke out in Gaza and on the West Bank as 477 prisoners were released in the first stage of the agreed deal. Most in emotional scenes were re-united with family and friends in Gaza who had waited for the buses carrying the free prisoners. On the West Bank too there were similar scenes.

Many kissed the ground once they got off the bus and in Gaza they were greeted by Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh. An estimated 200,000 packed into the main square in Gaza City for a spontaneous Hamas rally.

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