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Video: Israel, West Bank celebrate homecoming

  1. Transcript of: Israel, West Bank celebrate homecoming

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Now to the big news out of the Middle East today. It was a prisoner swap, one man for a thousand others. Gilad Shalit , an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas and held captive for five years, was exchanged today for a thousand Palestinian prisoners who have spent years in Israeli jails. While there were joyous welcomes for those released, the questions about this deal started almost immediately. We get our report tonight from NBC 's Ayman Mohyeldin .

    AYMAN MOHYELDIN reporting: Corporal Gilad Shalit returned home to Israel a national hero , saluted by his country's leadership, welcomed by friends and neighbors, embraced by family. His first words as a free man came even before he was back on Israeli soil, in an interview on state TV in Egypt , the country that brokered today's release.

    Mr. GILAD SHALIT:

    MOHYELDIN: Israel is a nation where every man and woman serves in the military, a society that promises to leave no soldier behind, and Shalit 's freedom had become a national obsession, starting with his capture by Palestinian fighters five years ago when he was a frail 19-year-old conscript. But some in Israel say his release came at a very high price. In return, Israel promised to release more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners, many of them serving time for terrorism and murder. Four hundred and seventy-seven were freed today and the streets of Gaza were filled with tens of thousands of joyful Palestinians eager to welcome them home. There were emotional homecomings in the West Bank as well. Among them, Qahira Saadi , who was serving a life sentence in Israel . She got a hero's welcome of her own. Shalit 's captors, Hamas , called today's release a victory for the Palestinian struggle and vowed to capture more Israeli soldiers in order to secure the release of the more than 5,000 prisoners still in Israeli jails. But Israel is celebrating today, too. An overwhelming majority of Israelis support the swap even if some are worried it may encourage more attacks. As both sides celebrated today, clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli soldiers in the West Bank served as a painful reminder peace is no closer than it was when Shalit was first captured. Now, that interview Gilad Shalit gave with Egyptian television was not part of the deal, Brian , and certainly caused a -- quite a bit of controversy in Israel . But the world is really interested in hearing what he has to say.

    WILLIAMS: And we want to welcome you, by the way, to our family. Ayman , for our viewers just joining us, is a native and a veteran of the region. Great to have you. Thanks for your reporting.

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Data: Israeli-Palestinian conflict

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