Gilad Shalit

Gilad Shalit

Gilad Shalit is a former Israel Defense Forces soldier who was held captive in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip from June 2006 to October 2011. Efforts to secure his freedom eventually resulted in a prisoner exchange that saw the release of 1,027 Palestinian inmates.

Shalit was born in Nahariya to Aviva and Noam, and was raised from the age of two in Mizpe Hila in the Western Galilee. He has an older brother and a younger sister, and also holds a French passport.

When he turned 18, Shalit was drafted into the IDF armored corps. On June 25, 2006, the then 19-year-old corporal and his comrades were manning a post alongside the Israel-Gaza border when Palestinian gunmen opened fire on their position. The gunmen had dug a tunnel underneath the Gaza barrier, allowing them to reach the position undetected. Two IDF soldiers were killed in the attack, three were wounded, and Shalit was led by his captors into Gaza. Three days after his abduction, IDF forces entered Gaza in an attempt to locate and retrieve him. In the operation, 277 Palestinians and five Israeli soldiers were killed, but Shalit was not returned.

Immediately following his capture, Hamas demanded the release of all female Palestinian prisoners and all prisoners under the age of 18 from Israeli jails in exchange for information on Shalit. Israel refused, and on July 1, 2006, his captors demanded the release of a further 1,000 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons.

In June 2007, one year after his abduction, the Hamas military wing, Iz a-Din al-Qassam, released an audio tape in which Shalit is heard appealing for a prisoner-swap deal to be reached to secure his release.

In October 2009, in exchange for the release of 20 female Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, Hamas released a videotape of Shalit, in which he appeared to be in good health. Since his capture, neither the Red Cross nor any other external organization has been allowed access to the soldier in order to independently assess his physical and mental condition.

Shalit's parents waged a spirited campaign to pressure the Israeli government into reaching a deal that would free him. He has also been subject of various international campaigns and support groups, and was named an honorary citizen of Paris in December 2008.