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Prisoners’ release welcomed in Switzerland

The Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has welcomed the release of Israel soldier Gilad Shalit and Palestinian detainees.

Shalit, 25, returned home to Israel on Tuesday after five years in captivity in the Gaza Strip, while the first few hundred of over a thousand Palestinians being freed in stages from Israeli jails were greeted within Gaza and the West Bank.

“We welcome today’s events. They are a source of great joy for the many families who are being reunited with their loved ones,” said Juan Pedro Schaerer, the head of the ICRC delegation for Israel and the occupied territories, in a statement.

“At the same time, we regret that repeated requests made over the past five years by the ICRC for access to Mr Shalit, in order to monitor his condition and to facilitate the exchange of news with his family, were uniformly rejected. And we regret that hundreds of families of Palestinians from Gaza held in Israeli places of detention were punished by being prevented from visiting their detained relatives.”

The ICRC helped ensure that the release operation ran smoothly, the statement said. This included interviewing all detainees privately before release to verify that they had accepted the move. The ICRC also facilitated the transportation of the detainees into the West Bank and from Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip.

The Swiss foreign ministry has also welcomed the news. In a statement issued on Tuesday, it said it hoped that the agreement would help create more dialogue.

The foreign ministry called for a “normalisation of the movement of persons and goods between Gaza and Israel, in particular by granting authorisations once again for family visits to Palestinians from Gaza who are in prison in Israel”.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR