Abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, held hostage in the Gaza Strip for more than five years, did not face violence while in captivity, an official from the Palestinian Hamas movement said yesterday.

For most of the period of his captivity, the conditions under which Shalit was held were good, Salah al-Arouri, a senior member of the radical Islamist movement's Damascus-based leadership in exile, told Israel Radio.

He said he was allowed to watch television and listen to the radio for most of the period, and at times would even talk and "laugh" with his captors.

Al-Arouri is one of the four Hamas members who negotiated Shalit's release.

The telephone interview was the first of a Hamas politburo member in Damascus with an Israeli media outlet.

Jailed in Israel in the past for orchestrating armed attacks against Israelis, al-Arouri spoke in almost fluent Hebrew.

Hamas' political leadership, aware of the asset the soldier was for the Islamist movement ruling Gaza, had instructed Shalit's captors not to harm him. "The situation, for most of the period it was good," al-Aurori said. "Nobody hit him."

Asked why Shalit emerged malnourished, pale and weak, he said it was because of the mental stress of his captivity, being allowed no visits or contacts with his family or the outside world. Shalit had coped mentally with ups and downs, al-Aurori said. "Sometimes he would think of his family," he said. "That is a difficult situation." Shalit himself has as revealed little about his captivity, saying only that conditions were tough at first and then gradually improved, especially during the final years.