JERUSALEM — Thin and wan, but lucid and very much alive, Sgt. Gilad Schalit, the captured Israeli soldier whose fate has gripped Israel for more than three years, appeared in a video on Friday holding a Palestinian newspaper dated Sept. 14.
Israel obtained the DVD on Friday in a deal brokered by German and Egyptian mediators. In return, Israel released 19 female Palestinian prisoners and was expected to release a 20th Sunday. Israeli prison officials said most were near the end of their sentences and were no longer considered dangerous.
The DVD offered Israel its first glimpse of the young man since June 2006, when he was seized in a cross-border raid. In the video, Schalit, now 23, holds up a copy of the Hamas-published newspaper, dated Monday, Sept. 14, 2009.
Reading from a piece of paper in a voice that broke at times, he says: "I have been hoping and waiting for the day of my release for a long time. I hope the current government under Benjamin Netanyahu will not waste the chance to finalize a deal, and I will therefore be able to finally have my dream come true and be released."
Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were among the senior officials who first saw the Schalit video, along with military officials, who checked its authenticity. The Schalit family watched it privately at home, and then decided to allow it to be made public.
Of the 19 prisoners released, 18 returned to the West Bank. But the largest celebration was reserved for Fatima Younis Zaq, the only one from Gaza. Zaq, who is in her 40s, is affiliated with the extremist group Islamic Jihad. She was arrested in May 2007 at the Erez crossing on her way into Israel and was still awaiting sentencing for planning a suicide bombing. She received a hero's welcome in Gaza, returning with an infant son who was born in jail.