Freed soldier says thanks

TEL AVIV. Former Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has thanked his supporters in his first remarks to the Israeli public since being released as part of a prisoner exchange with the Islamist group Hamas in October.

TEL AVIV. Former Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has thanked his supporters in his first remarks to the Israeli public since being released as part of a prisoner exchange with the Islamist group Hamas in October.

Mr Shalit spoke in a brief video clip shown to a gathering of activists and broadcast on Israeli television.

"When I was in captivity I heard a lot about your efforts to secure my release," he said, saying he was convinced they were "one of the deciding factors that contributed to my return home".

Israel agreed to free more than 1000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Mr Shalit's release. Israel released 477 of those prisoners in October, and the rest are expected to be freed within a week.

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