Hamas Marks Shalit-Prisoner Exchange Anniversary

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the "military wing" of the Hamas terror organization, marked the one-year anniversary of the prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit with a parade in the Gaza Strip.

A Hamas-led terror cell captured Shalit during a cross-border attack on an Israeli army post near the Keren Shalom crossing with the Gaza Strip. The terror cell, which tunneled under the border fence, killed two soldiers, wounded three, and kidnapped Shalit.

After five years of failed negotiations with the terror group, Israel agreed to release more than 1,000 Arab prisoners, most serving time for terror-related activities, in exchange for Shalit.

At Thursday's ceremony, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh boasted in having placed Israel "in a political and security-related crisis."

"The abduction missions scored an overwhelming triumph for the Palestinian resistance," Haniyeh told his followers. "Our warriors fought valiantly and managed to embarrass the enemy and place Israel in a political and security-related crisis."

From Israel's perspective, the lopsided prisoner exchange was particularly heart-wrenching for families whose loved ones were killed by terrorists being released. But many also viewed Shalit's safe return as evidence of the value Judaism places on every life.

In a letter sent to families of terror victims at the time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision "one of the hardest" he had ever made.

"I hope you will find comfort in the fact that I and the entire people of Israel are at your side and share your pain. Your loved ones are in our hearts forever," Netanyahu wrote.

Since Shalit's release, the Israel Defense Forces has thwarted numbers of attempted kidnappings by Hamas and other Islamic terror groups.

The IDF issued a stringent set of regulations to troops to prevent future incidents. In the past, Arabs have disguised themselves as religious Jews to abduct soldiers hitchhiking home for Shabbat (the Sabbath).

The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades produced a 45-minute film allegedly recreating all facets of the abduction and prisoner release. The group's spokesman, Abu Obaida, told reporters "this swap deal won't be the last."

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