Noam Shalit - 20.10.11
Noam Shalit, father of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, speaking at a press conference on Oct. 20, 2011. Photo by Abdala Shama
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IDF soldier Gilad Shalit riding his bike at his Mitzpe Hila village on Oct. 20, 2011. Photo by Abdala Shama

Noam Shalit, father of recently released Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, said on Thursday that claims his son was not tortured during his time in Hamas captivity should be taken "with a grain of salt."

"Gilad went through harsh things, at least in the first period (of his captivity). It is correct that after that, after that first period, the way he was treated improved," the older Shalit said at a press conference. Gilad Shalit was freed on Tuesday after over five years in Hamas captivity in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

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Earlier Thursday, the newspaper Al-Hayat reported that Zuhair Al-Qaisi, leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, the organization that captured Gilad, said the IDF soldier was not subject to any emotional or physical torture during his period in custody.

"He had access to radio and television. We took care of him, his physical and mental health. He was not given over to any emotional or physical torture. He was lightly injured in the course of his capture, and he received the necessary medical care and completely healed," said Al-Qaisi.

Al-Qaisi told Al-Hayat that Imad Hamad, who was the first person to actually abduct Shalit, and who Israel assassinated on August 18, together with the group's previous leader Kamal A-Nirev, interrogated Shalit after capturing him. Hamad asked Shalit his name, citizenship, religion and army assignment on the Gaza border.

"Shalit was very suspicious, but he responded clearly to the questions during the first hours that he was held by the military arm of the Popular Committees," said Al-Qaisi.

Going back to a 'normal' life

At the press conference on Thursday, Noam Shalit said his son's state was improving. "Gilad is feeling better and is under medical surveillance. He went out for a short walk, rode on his bicycle and played table tennis at home. He has met up with friends – friends from the village (Mitzpe Hila), school and childhood friends," he said.

Noam Shalit reported that his son is eating and has an appetite, but he still has trouble sleeping through the night. "He needs his time and needs to adapt [to normal life]," he said.

The elder Shalit claimed the interview conducted at the Rafah crossing in Egypt during Gilad's prisoner swap was forced upon his son. "The interview was unnecessary and out of place," he said.

Noam Shalit said Gilad felt Israel bombing the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead in the winter of 2008-2009. "It's not a picnic to be in a building while above you there are F-15s and F-16s bombing (from above)," he said.

Shalit said his son was aware of much of what was going on in Israel during his captivity. "He (Gilad) had a radio through which he was able to tune into Army Radio, Israeli Radio and Radio Darom (South Israel)," the elder Shalit said.

Noam Shalit said that although his son is doing reasonably well under the circumstances, he is not yet ready to be interviewed by the media. "Let's not forget that Gilad is still an IDF soldier and must adhere to the policies of the IDF Spokesperson's Office," he said.

"Gilad is not a person with requests and demands. He's going with the flow," Noam Shalit said. "We're giving him everything we can at home," he added.

Noam Shalit said the family's first priority is supporting Gilad and as such has been less focused on the Jewish holiday of Simhat Torah. "Naturally, we are not busy with the holiday itself, rather with welcoming Gilad and the start of his rehabilitation. I think this is the first holiday that we can really call a happy holiday," he said.