18 Oct 2011

Hamas hands over Israeli soldier in prisoner swap

10:43 pm on 18 October 2011

An Israeli soldier held in captivity in Gaza by Islamist group Hamas for more than five years has been handed over to Israeli officials as part of a prisoner swap.

Israeli television has shown Gilad Shalit in Egyptian footage shot on Tuesday walking briskly to a vehicle after he was freed by Hamas officials, Reuters reports.

Sergeant Shalit, 25, was seized in June 2006 when Hamas militants tunnelled into Israel.

Simultaneously, Israel is due to free 477 Palestinian prisoners on Tuesday, with witnesses seeing a first batch arriving in Gaza.

A further 550 Palestinians are set for release later in the year. Many have been serving life sentences for deadly attacks.

On Monday, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a bid by families of victims of militant attacks to delay the swap.