First pictures of Shalit shown
Tel Aviv - The first pictures of a healthy-looking Gilad Shalit were shown on news networks on Tuesday, just hours after the Israeli soldier had been released by Hamas.
The militant Palestinian movement held Shalit for more than five years, handing him over to Egyptian intelligence officials.
Mahmoud al-Zahar, a top official of the movement which rules Gaza, confirmed in a written statement that Shalit had been transferred to the Egyptian side.
Shalit is now thought to be in Israel, Sky News reported. In exchange for the soldier, Israel will release 477 prisoners on Tuesday. An additional 550 prisoners will be freed in two months’ time as part of the same deal.
Six Arab Israelis have already been freed, including three to the town of Umm el-Fahm in northern Israel, were hundreds were celebrating in the streets.
Hamas spokesperson in Gaza Fawzi Barhoom also confirmed to reporters at Rafah that the first stage of the prisoners exchange had been "completed successfully".
The swap got underway several hours before dawn, when Israel began moving Palestinian inmates from prisons to border points on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where they will be freed.
Israeli prison buses moved 96 prisoners from the Ketziot jail in southern Israel to the Ofer military base near Ramallah, while other convoys transferred 334 inmates to Kerem Shalom, on the border between Israel, the Gaza Strip and Eqypt.
White buses, escorted by police vehicles with blue lights flashing, were seen arriving at Kerem Shalom in the early morning.
Additional prisoners up for release on Tuesday were moved from other prisons to their release points.