Grip and Grin / All Sides Scrambling to Secure First Photos of Shalit

The defense establishment expected Hamas release pictures proving declaration Shalit treated humanely, but no such pictures had yet been published.

For the five and a half years of Gilad Shalit's captivity, Hamas has refused to release pictures of him - except for a two minute and 20 second video sent to Israel after the government agreed to release 20 female Palestinian prisoners two years ago. This morning, after Shalit leaves where Hamas has been hiding him, the competition for the first pictures will start.

In addition to the media and emotional interest, there is a diplomatic and political angle.

Photographers at Shalit home - Hagai Frid - 18102011
Hagai Frid

Until Monday, the defense establishment expected Hamas to release pictures that would prove the group's declarations that it treated Shalit humanely. But when Haaretz went to print last night, such pictures had not yet been published. This could be because of Hamas' fears that such pictures could give away where the soldier was being held.

But it is likely Hamas wants to have a few extra moments of glory in the world press and will rush to release the first pictures of Shalit this morning, even before he is handed over to the Egyptian mediators. Egypt is also likely to publish pictures of Shalit to be taken during his transfer from Gaza to Egypt, before he reaches Israel.

This way the Egyptian government can receive an extra bit of credit for mediating the deal.

Even once Shalit is turned over to the Israel Defense Forces, the competition for the first pictures will not end. The media may have been declared out of bounds as the IDF closes off the route Shalit will take, and soldiers stationed nearby will have to hand over their cellphones so no one will send out an unauthorized picture of the freed soldier. But there is still tension on this issue between the IDF Spokesman's Office and the Government Press Office, which is part of the Prime Minister's Office.

IDF Spokesman Yoav Mordechai wants to prevent a situation where pictures of Shalit are broadcast even before he meets with his family at the Tel Nof air base.

Mordechai has promised the Israeli media that he will release pictures and video ready for broadcast immediately after the meeting with the family.

But on Monday IDF officers said the GPO might hurry to release pictures of Shalit with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the IDF Spokesman's Office publishes the ready-for-broadcast pictures.