Time to fold tent, says Shalit's father
The family of Gilad Shalit will fold their tent outside the Israeli prime minister's residence after news of a deal for the release of their son, abducted by Islamist militants in 2006, was announced on Tuesday, his father said Reuters reported
Hundreds of people turned out to celebrate the news, swamping the tent where the Shalit family and their supporters have kept a vigil to press Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to secure the 25-year-old soldier's release.
"The protest tent has finished its role and it's time to fold up and head home," said Noam Shalit, Gilad's father.
He and his wife Aviva, along with other family members and supporters, have maintained their camp for more than a year outside Netanyahu's official home.
Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers agreed to swap more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for the captive soldier.
The plight of Shalit transfixed Israel after the tank gunner was captured by militants who tunneled their way out of Gaza and forced him back over the border in a raid.
Many sympathizers, including foreign visitors and officials had visited the tent since it was erected in 2010 after a 12-day march from the Shalit family's home in northern Israel. They said they would stay there until Gilad came home.
Noam and Aviva Shalit were greeted by loud cheering as they stepped into the tent on Tuesday evening.
"As far as we are concerned, the matter will be closed when we see Gilad arrive home, walk down the stairs into the house, then we can say the circle has been closed," Noam said.
"The joy is indescribable, but until (Gilad returns to us) we are restrained," said Aviva.
The exchange of Shalit for the first 450 Palestinians to be released is expected in the coming days.