US pleased with release of Israeli soldier

Updated: 2011-10-19 08:53


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US pleased with release of Israeli soldier

Gilad Shalit (L) stands with his father Noam at Tel Nof air base in central Israel in this handout released by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) October 18, 2011.[Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON - Washington is pleased with the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who has been held captive by Hamas in Gaza Strip for more than five years, the US State Department said on Tuesday.

"We're obviously pleased that he's been released and finally reunited with his family and that he had been held far too long in captivity," said State Department spokesman Mark Tone.

Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier that had been held by the Islamic Hamas Movement since June 2006, was back to Israel on Tuesday morning. His return is part of a prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hamas, which would also see the release of 477 Arab and Palestinian inmates within the day and another 550 in two months.

Toner said that the US wants that this swap can produce "a constructive atmosphere" between the Israelis and Palestinians, which can lead to their direct negotiations on the Middle East peace process ultimately.

But he also admitted that the US does have concerns over whether the release of some of the Palestinian prisoners potentially posed a threat to both Israeli and the US interests, without providing any further details.

Washington brought the Israelis and Palestinians together last September to resume the direct peace negotiations on Middle East peace. But the talks quickly collapsed because Israel refused to renew the moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank. Now the US is again pushing both parties to restart their direct negotiations.

Direct negotiations between Palestine and Israel were suspended in October 2010, after Israel failed to renew a ban on settlement building in the West Bank, which prompted Palestine to leave the talks.