Gilad Shalit left his home community of Mitzpeh Hila on Saturday for the first time since his return from captivity last Tuesday. Shalit's father, Noam, accompanied him on an outing to the Betzet beach, north of Nahariya. The two walked along the water and waded into the Mediterranean, a stark contrast with the younger Shalit's five and a half years in captivity, during which he never saw the sea.
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Shalit spent the remainder of the weekend in Mitzpeh Hila, catching up with friends and relatives. On Friday, he took a walk with his brother, Yoel, and his mother, Aviva. The family reported that he watched Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball and news broadcasts on television and also read newspapers. Friends who met with him said Shalit was recovering rather quickly from his years of confinement, with support from his family.
A leader of the Palestinian group that captured Shalit said he was treated well during his captivity. Zuhair Al-Qaisi of the Popular Resistance Committees told The Associated Press over the weekend that Shilat was given sufficient food and allowed to watch Hebrew-language television.
As Israel celebrated Shalit's return, Hamas continued to threaten to abduct Israelis in an effort to force the return of Arab prisoners still held by Israel.
In rare interviews that he granted over the weekend to Palestinian media outlets, the head of the military wing of Hamas, Ahmed Jabari, threatened more kidnappings.
"Those same operations will continue as long as there are Palestinian prisoners in jail in Israel," he said. Referring to the second phase of the prisoner exchange in about two months, involving Israel's release of 550 additional prisoners, Ja'abari said it was agreed that Israel, which can choose which prisoners will be released, would opt for security prisoners rather than common criminals and that priority would be given to older prisoners, sick prisoners and those who have been in jail for more than 20 years.
The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee yesterday called on the government to develop clear guidelines on the conduct of negotiations for the release of prisoners of war. The committee action came after its intelligence subcommittee met on Friday with the head of the Shin Bet security service, Yoram Cohen, for an update on the Shalit prisoner swap.
In his media interviews, Ja'abari did not mention the nine remaining women prisoners who were not included in the initial prisoner transfer, but Hamas officials say the nine are expected to be released soon. Momentum also seems to be building for the release of Israeli-American law student Ilan Grapel, who has been detained in Egypt since June and accused of spying for Israel. The Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported yesterday that details of an agreement to have Grapel freed are almost complete. His release is expected to come in return for the freedom from Israeli detention of 30 Egyptian prisoners and three children suspected of illegally entering Israel.
Recent reports about the impending release of Grapel have made no reference to Israeli Arab Odeh Tarabin, who has been imprisoned in Egypt for 11 years on allegations that he spied for Israel. Tarabin's Israeli lawyer recent contacted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeking to have his client included in any agreement to free Grapel and complained of the disparate treatment he said Tarabin's case has received in Israel.
President Shimon Peres is expected to visit Shalit in Mitzpeh Hila within the next few days. Members of the pubic continued to make their way to Mitzpeh Hila over the weekend, but are being kept away from the Shalit home itself. Some were bearing gifts, including food and flowers. Policemen guarding the home have found themselves in the role of delivery staff, relaying the offerings to the Shalit family. Residents in the area expect the crowds to gradually taper off beginning today, following the end of the Sukkot holiday.