Last updated: 1 August, 2014

Israeli soldier’s capture: echoes of Gilad Shalit

Friday’s disappearance of an Israeli soldier, apparently captured in Gaza, has echoes of the June 2006 seizure of conscript Gilad Shalit who was held by Palestinian militants for five years.

On June 25, 2006, the then 19-year-old Shalit was captured after militants tunnelled under Gaza’s border and attacked an army post, killing two soldiers and seriously wounding a third.

The raid was claimed by three Palestinian groups, including Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades.

Shalit, who has dual Israeli-French nationality, was captured and his bloodied bulletproof vest was found on the ground.

A day later, the three groups demanded the liberation of women and minors detained in Israel in exchange for information on Shalit. The then Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert ruled out freeing Palestinian prisoners.

The attack was the first of its kind since Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from the coastal enclave in September 2005.

It unleashed, on June 28, a five-month Israeli military operation aimed at finding Shalit and ending militant rocket fire.

More than 400 Palestinians, including many civilians, were killed, around 60 Hamas officials were arrested, including several ministers and dozens of deputies, and a blockade was imposed on the impoverished enclave.

Israel failed to find Shalit during the offensive, and a Palestinian spokesman said on August 28 that he was alive.

On April 8, 2007, Israel confirmed it had received a list of Palestinian prisoners wanted in exchange for Shalit.

On June 25, 2007, a year after Shalit’s capture, Hamas, which had just seized control of Gaza from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement, released a recording from Shalit, in which he begged Olmert’s government to do more to free him and said that his health has deteriorated.

In September the following year, then French president Nicolas Sarkozy said he had handed over to his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad a letter from Shalit’s father, destined for his son.

On December 27, 2008, Israel launched a devastating 22-day military offensive against the Gaza Strip following daily rocket attacks by militants.

Then, on October 2, 2009, Israel, whose new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had pledged to secure Shalit’s safe return, released around 20 Palestinian women prisoners in exchange for a one-minute video of Shalit.

Between June 27 and July 8, 2010, Shalit’s parents and thousands of supporters walked to Jerusalem from northern Israel to mark four years since his capture, to urge the government to go ahead with a prisoner swap.

On October 11, 2011 Israel and Hamas announced a deal under Egyptian mediation for Shalit’s release in exchange for the liberation of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.

Finally, on October 18, the young man who had become an icon in Israel, his picture emblazoned across the country thanks to a relentless campaign by his parents, returned to Israel after 1,941 days in captivity.