The number of journalists and news crews that have arrived in Israel in the last few days ahead of the expected release of Gilad Shalit on Tuesday is a reflection of the interest his case has sparked around the world. According to the Government Press Office, the 2,000 foreign journalists that are stationed in Israel are to be joined by at least 250 others who are coming to cover the prisoner exchange to free the captive Israeli soldier.
A number of major broadcast outlets, including Arab stations Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera, said they intended to cover the event live. These broadcasters, as well as newspapers across Europe - from Spain's El Pais, to Italy's Corriere Della Sera and the German Der Speigel newsmagazine - have been closely following the story in recent days, with their Israel-based reporters providing regular updates, including news of the list of Arab prisoners to be released, the mixed feelings in Israel and the impact the deal could have on the region.
France 24 television, for example, dedicated a program Friday to the prisoner-exchange deal. The program host repeatedly asked guests how such a deal could make sense in light of the disparity involved in the release of one Israeli soldier for over 1,000 Arab prisoners.
And for its part, Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper focused on the internal debate and soul-searching going on in Israel over the deal.
"A sense of betrayal is emerging among those who lost family and friends during the sustained terrorist bombing campaign of the second Palestinian Intifada," its Jerusalem-based correspondent wrote.
On Sunday alone, 15 leading foreign news organizations contacted the Government Press Office. The greatest interest in the case had been expressed by news organizations from Germany, France and the United States, GPO director Oren Helman said, explaining also that many journalists who come to Israel to cover specific events do not coordinate their visits with the GPO in advance, such that the full extent of the press contingent here may not yet be apparent.
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