Israeli Cabinet Approves Prisoner Swap for Soldier

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- There was dancing in the streets of Jerusalem on Tuesday evening when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he had reached a deal to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

"To stand here tonight and to see that this could be your prayers and the tefila [prayers] and the Jewish people can be answered is really an amazing feeling," Tracey Gerber told CBN News.

A Hamas-led terror cell abducted Shalit in a cross-border raid in June 2006. He's been held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip for more than five years.

Noam and Aviva Shalit have kept a vigil for their son around the corner from the Prime Minister's Jerusalem residence. They and their supporters have made Gilad Shalit a household name in many circles around the world.

Their hopes for his freedom have been dashed repeatedly, but this time it looks like he's coming

Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev said the proposal is responsible and balanced.

"It brings home our young serviceman and it protects, we think in the best way possible, the Israeli public from the threat posed by an unfettered release of prisoners," Regev told CBN News.

The euphoria is tempered by the price of the deal -- some 1,000 terrorists will be released in exchange for Shalit -- about one-third of them serving life sentences for some of the worst terror attacks in Israel's history.

Freed terrorists often return to kill more Israelis.

"This deal will bring more casualties to the region, it will bring more kidnapping of soldiers. Hamas has a big victory today," said Meir Indor, head of Almagor Terror Victims Association.

Hamas hailed the deal as an historic victory. In Gaza, Palestinians took to the streets in celebration.

Analysts say the deal will boost Hamas' standing among Palestinian Arabs and in the wider Arab-Muslim world.

But with the storms sweeping the Middle East, Netanyahu told his people it wasn't clear there would be another window of opportunity to free Shalit.

Whether the release of these terrorists will spawn more terror, time will tell, but in the meantime Israelis are rejoicing.

"What's been said for a long time, you save one life, it's like saving the whole world," Israeli Harry Prizant said.

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CBN News
Chris Mitchell and Julie Stahl

Chris Mitchell and Julie Stahl

CBN News Jerusalem Bureau

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