ICRC welcomes release of Gilad Shalit and Palestinian detainees

"We welcome today's events. They are a source of great joy for the many families who are being reunited with their loved ones," said Juan Pedro Schaerer, the head of the ICRC delegation for Israel and the occupied territories. "At the same time, we regret that repeated requests made over the past five years by the ICRC for access to Mr Shalit, in order to monitor his condition and to facilitate the exchange of news with his family, were uniformly rejected. And we regret that hundreds of families of Palestinians from Gaza held in Israeli places of detention were punished by being prevented from visiting their detained relatives."

In its role as a neutral and impartial intermediary, the ICRC helped ensure that the release operation ran smoothly. ICRC delegates interviewed each detainee in private prior to his or her release to verify that they accepted their release. The ICRC also facilitated the transportation of the detainees into the West Bank and from the Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip.

I spoke this morning to ICRC Jerusalem Head of Mission Nicolas Von Arx. He explains our involvement in today's release operation.