Gilad Shalit's Family Returns Home After Leaving Jerusalem Protest Site

Noam and Aviva Shalit arrive at Mitzpe Hila in northern Israel following deal to release their son; dozens of activists and neighbors welcome them upon return home.

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Noam and Aviva Shalit, parents of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, arrived Wednesday evening in their home in Mitzpe Hila in northern Israel, after leaving the protest site they had been encamped at in Jerusalem. They were welcomed by dozens activists and neighbors.

"I am glad to return home and I'm waiting for Gilad," said his father Noam. "I want to see him coming down the stairs of the house to come full circle. It's been a long road. It's time for Gilad to come home."

Yoel Shalit and Yaara Winkler, brother of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and his girlfriend, arrive to their home in Mitzpe Hila, northern Israel, on Wednesday.
Israeli President Shimon Peres talks to Noam (R) and Aviva (L) Shalit, parents of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, during a meeting at the President's residence in Jerusalem, on Wednesday.
An Israeli girl writes a message to abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
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Yoel Shalit and Yaara Winkler, brother of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and his girlfriend, arrive to their home in Mitzpe Hila, northern Israel, on Wednesday.Credit: AP
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Israeli President Shimon Peres talks to Noam (R) and Aviva (L) Shalit, parents of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, during a meeting at the President's residence in Jerusalem, on Wednesday.Credit: AFP
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An Israeli girl writes a message to abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.Credit: AFP
Shalit homecoming

Gilad's brother Yoel said as he arrived: "Tonight feels like truly coming home. I never believed we would have such a happy holiday. I am excited and a bit nervous, because Gilad still isn't home."

Earlier on Wednesday, President Shimon Peres met with the family of Gilad Shalit in Jerusalem and praised the deal reached between Israel and Hamas that includes Shalit's release.

Peres told Shalit's parents that they struggled for their son's release with "restraint and dignity".

Aviva Shalit thanked the Netanyahu government for approving the swap deal, saying it was a "courageous decision." She also paid tribute to the families of the two soldiers killed in the June 2005 attack that led to her son's capture.

Noam Shalit, the father of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, is congratulated by supporters in Jerusalem as he heads home, October 12, 2011. Credit: Reuters

"The bereaved families will always be with us and we will always remember Hanan [Barak] and Pavel [Slutzker] who were killed in the incident," she said.

Peres also met with Israeli officials who took part in the Shalit talks, including the head of Israel's negotiating team, David Meidan. Peres thanked the officials for their work in reaching a deal to bring Shalit home.

Peres thanked the Egyptian and Turkish governments for their roles in the efforts to achieve the deal.

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