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Gilad Shalit arrives at home in northern Israel (2)


09:10, October 19, 2011

Netanyahu said that though the decision to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit was "very very hard," he saw the need to "return home someone whom the State of Israel had sent to the battlefield ... as a leader who daily sends soldiers to defend Israel, I believe that mutual responsibility is not a mere slogan, but a cornerstone of our existence here."

Earlier Tuesday, Israel released 477 of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners as part of a landmark swap deal signed with Islamic group Hamas in Cairo last week.

Some 280 of them were serving multiple life terms for perpetrating lethal attacks that killed upward of a thousand Israeli civilians.

Netanyahu said Tuesday that in a bid to minimize future dangers to Israelis, he insisted that senior Hamas prisoners remain incarcerated, and that the majority of those slated for release be exiled or not allowed to return to the West Bank, two basic demands that Hamas had ultimately conceded to during the course of negotiations on the swap deal.

"I would like to make it clear. We will continue to fight terrorism. Any released terrorist who returns to terrorism, and his blood is upon his head," Netanyahu warned.

Shalit, 25 years old, spent 1,940 days in Hamas captivity in Gaza. The deal for his release entailed the highest price-ever paid by the Jewish state for one person. He is also the first member of the Israeli military to return home alive from captivity in 26 years.

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