Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held in captivity by Palestinian groups for more than five and a half years, arrived in Egypt Tuesday morning after being released by Hamas, an Israeli military source conveyed. "He was transferred to Egypt by Hamas 10 minutes ago, and an Israeli colonel will check his state of health," the source told AFP.
Afterwards, he will be transferred to Israel and will be honored by a military ceremony.
The armed wing of the Hamas movement confirmed Shalit has been freed and handed to Egypt under a prisoner exchange deal. There have been reports that Ahmed Jaabri the military chief of Hamas has personally handed over the Israeli captive.
"Shalit has been handed to the Egyptian side but will not be handed to the Israeli side until the arrival of all the Palestinian prisoners,’’ a source from the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades told AFP.
Buses of Palestinian prisoners were moving from Israel into Egypt en route to Gaza.
Earlier, a Gaza militant leader said the Palestinians were waiting until all 477 prisoners were moved into Palestinian territory before turning Shalit over to the Egyptians.
Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV reported that a high-level Hamas delegation arrived on the Egyptian side of the border crossing in preparation for a formal handover of Shalit and to greet the returning prisoners.
In an elaborate operation, Shalit was then to be taken across Egypt’s border into Israel, and then flown to an air base in central Israel to be reunited with his family.