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Everyone should welcome Gilad Shalit's release

Northern Ireland Friends of Israel salutes everyone who prayed for the day of Gilad Shalit's return to his family.

From Co Down singer-songwriter Jim Clint, who wrote a song for Gilad that was listened to by thousands on YouTube, to those who signed online petitions, or simply had him in their thoughts and prayers.

All Northern Ireland's MPs at Westminster signed early day motions demanding Gilad's release. We think of those families who will never see their loved-ones again. A recent visitor to Belfast, Arnold Roth, lost his 15-year-old daughter in the bombing of a Jerusalem pizza parlour.

The person who scouted the suicide-bomber into the centre of Jerusalem that day (who killed 15 civilians, the youngest aged two, and wounded more than 130) walks free in the deal to bring Gilad home. Many of those freed remain fully committed to the violent destruction of Israel, not to a peace process.

Hamas, which held Gilad prisoner in Gaza, has already claimed a great victory. It denied Gilad every human right.

He was held in solitary confinement for more than five years, denied sunshine during that entire period, was not permitted a single Red Cross visit and was returned to Israel malnourished. In spite of all that, human rights activists who arrived in Gaza rarely said a word on his behalf.

We hope that everyone in Northern Ireland, whatever their views on the Middle East conflict, welcomes Gilad Shalit home.

GERALD STEINBERG (PRESIDENT)

and STEVEN JAFFE and TERRY

McCORRAN (CO-CHAIRS)

Northern Ireland Friends of Israel

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