On October 11, Hamas leader Khalid Mish’al gave a televised speech and said:
“In the name of God, praise be to God, prayers and peace upon the messenger of God, O honourable viewers, sons of our people, sons of our mothers, free people of the world, peace and the mercy of God and his blessings be upon you on this blessed and lovely night. We will begin, with God’s blessing, with good words about God’s grace and his mercy in which people are rejoicing. On this day, 11 October, after five years of hard work and steadfastness in the form of severe sacrifices, fatigue, sweat, and blood and after difficult indirect negotiations with the Israeli occupier via the mediation of our brothers in Egypt, we were able, with God’s grace, to reach this exchange deal for our heroic and noble prisoners in the occupation jails, both men and women, in exchange for the soldier and Israeli prisoner of war we captured in a battle, in exchange for the prisoners who were abducted and arrested, their only sin being that they were steadfast about their land and were engaged in a legitimate resistance against the occupation. I bring good tidings of this deal to all our people, inside the territories and outside, to our Arab and Islamic nation, to the free people of the world, and to lovers of freedom who are eager to break the shackles of the occupiers.
“Tonight we are not going into details. Brothers, I know that everyone is eager to hear details, but tonight we will not talk about details. Rather, we will talk about the form, the promise, and about this national achievement that was carried out by the mujahid wings on the land of Palestine. The gist of the deal is as follows: 1,000 male prisoners, in addition to 27 female prisoners. It will take place in two stages. The first stage will include 450 who will be released within a week from today. The second stage will take place two months after the first stage and will include 550 prisoners. This deal is part of God’s grace upon us. It is a great achievement, in the distinct scope and quality of our prisoners, in exchange for the Zionist imprisoned soldier Gil’ad Shalit. It includes all the women, 27 female prisoners and heroic fighters. Not even one female prisoner will remain in the prisons of the enemy. The first stage will include 450 prisoners, among them 315 who got life sentences – some got one life term, some got 10 or several life terms – 315 people with life sentences from among 450. This, in addition to people who were given long sentences such as 10 years in jail.
“As I said, those who oversaw this deal during the difficult negotiations gave precedence to people who have already been imprisoned in the past and to the long-standing prisoners, some of whom have spent 34 years and others who have spent close to 30 years in jail. These people have given the best part of their youth and the fine part of their life as a sacrifice for the nation and in the path of God. We focused our efforts on them out of all the others we tried to include in the deal, with God’s grace. Also, we exerted efforts to include iconic figures and a considerable number of prisoners from all our inmates in the Israeli prisons. A very important point is that the deal encompasses the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, the 1948 territories, the Golan, and the Palestinian diaspora. Geographically, it is an expression of the nation’s unity and the unity of the Palestinian people. This is a unified people. This deal says that the Palestinian people are one, whether inside the Palestinian territories or outside. The Palestinian people, in any geographical area they reside, whether inside or outside, are one people, with one fate, one cause, one blood, and a single suffering. Our responsibility, as a resistance force, must be one. This is why we devoted efforts and engaged in a fierce battle to secure their release from prison – for the sake of our people in Jerusalem, in the 1948 territories, and in the Golan.
“Furthermore, this deal embodies and cements the unity of the people because it includes all the factions. We did not focus on one particular faction just because it was the one who captured the soldier. This is a national achievement, O sons of people and our nation – this is your achievement for all the people. Everyone engages in the struggle, everyone is part of the nation, and everyone has made sacrifices. Everyone carries a weight round our necks. This is a national achievement, you deserve it, and we are all proud of it, with God’s grace. We bring these good tidings with the grace of God almighty, for the fathers, mothers, spouses, sons, daughters, relatives, family, loved ones, friends, and for anyone whose heart was beating for their people imprisoned in the Israeli jails. For those whose heart bled before it dried up and their eyes shed tears over the long years of imprisonment, over the torment and the hard labour that their sons, their own flesh and blood and the people most dear to them suffered. These are great people. The glory of Palestine is made out of these people. These are the martyrs, the prisoners, the wounded, the mujahidin. This is why we hurry in bringing good tidings to their families. They made it possible for us, and with the grace of God. First of all, we will restore the smile to everyone’s faces.
“We are happy about this great achievement and we praise God for it. But our happiness is mixed with pain and sadness, because we are not able to release all the prisoners. We have secured the release of all of the female prisoners in this deal, but we are concerned about all the other male prisoners. However, we were not able to include all 8,000 prisoners. This is still painful for us. We were looking forward to releasing as many as possible, but a deal in exchange for one soldier, after five years of hard work, could not carry more than this maximum achievement which we managed to impose on the Israeli leadership and the Israeli negotiator. O sisters and brothers, sons of my people and sons of the great nation, this agreement was not made easily. We waged a fierce battle, which is why it comes a few years late, because the enemy procrastinated and blackmailed, but in the end, the will of our people and our fierce negotiator prevailed, with God’s grace, until we wrested this great achievement. This is the very maximum that a deal could achieve in exchange for one soldier. Those who will be released are heroes. They should go back to their families and homeland, go back to their path in life, the path of freedom, and resume their national and struggle activities. Ask that God accrue all that they suffered during life in prison to their credit. They are an emblem of confidence for their people and we are all proud of them. We wish for their released.
“To those who remain in the prisons, we say: We promise and swear that we will continue our efforts until we release all of you. This is a promise with God, and a pledge to you. He who releases 1,027 people will secure the release of 8,000 prisoners, and of any prisoner arrested in the past or the present, or anybody the enemy is thinking of arresting in the future. The Palestinian resistance leadership is entrusted with this responsibility and it will not stop exhibiting it. Moreover, it will do the impossible to release all of you. This is a promise and an oath, God willing. We fulfilled our promise today, and we will do the same tomorrow. I am reassuring the mothers, fathers and families who are looking forward to see the release of their imprisoned ones who were not included in the deal. I say to them: Just as people are now rejoicing over the release, so you will rejoice in the same way soon, God willing and with God almighty’s help. This is an opportunity to send our thanks and grace, first of all to God almighty; he is the one who helped capture the soldier and ensured the success of the operation. We do not say this as an exaggeration. This deal today is one more in a series of blessings that have preceded it. But this is the first deal involving a Zionist prisoner inside Palestine. This is a great achievement. We paid a high price for him. And this is why we will succeed, the way we have already succeeded.
“From here I am sending greetings, praise, and pride to the heroic Al-Qassam Brigades, and to the other resistance factions, who managed to bring this soldier from the battlefield in Operation Shattered Illusion, which in fact shattered the illusions of the occupying enemy and made the dream of releasing our prisoners a reality for our people, with God’s grace. Greetings to the Al-Qassam Brigades and all the Palestinian resistance factions. God have mercy on the martyrs of the Operation Shattered Illusion. May God heal those wounded in this operation and release those arrested by the occupation forces in the aftermath of this operation. We thank our great people in the Gaza Strip who withstood so much after the operation: 500 martyrs in a matter of days and weeks as the enemy exacted revenge after we succeeded in capturing the soldier Gil’ad Shalit. The Gaza Strip suffered five lean years of siege, punishments, distress, and continuing aggression and paid an exorbitant price. Greetings to the people of Gaza, our beloved people and heroes and families. Greetings to our great people in the West Bank, who have also paid an exorbitant price in hardships, siege, aggression, and in the arrest of cabinet ministers, deputies, and leaders. The West Bank is still bleeding and suffering pain and torment because of Israel’s revenge.
“We thank the brotherly Egypt for engaging in the difficult negotiations with us and for exerting efforts that are worthy of gratitude. We thank its general intelligence apparatus for taking up a national duty of which we are proud. Their efforts were fruitful, with God’s grace. We thank everyone who helped make this deal happen, both states and individuals, especially Qatar, Turkey, Syria, and the German mediator. It is a privilege and a duty for me, my brothers in HAMAS, the leaders engaged in Palestinian national and Islamic activities, and all the leaderships of the Palestinian resistance to praise our negotiating team. They are four great and wonderful stars who stand out for their devotion, expertise, experience, efficiency, skill, knowledge of detail, and patience so that this deal could be secured. Pray God to reward our people and our nation because of them. The military and political leadership take pride in them.
“Let me conclude by saying: O great people, this is a great achievement, a national achievement, which we should not turn into a partisan or factional issue. We are all part of this great nation. This is a national achievement. The people who accomplished it can make additional national achievements. They can liberate land, cleanse Jerusalem, attain the right of return. They can strengthen national unity, unify the Palestinian ranks and the decision making process, based on a Palestinian point of reference. For this reason, I call on my brothers in the Palestinian [National] Authority, leaders of the resistance, leaders of Palestinian factions, and political forces – I call on everyone both within and outside the Palestinian territories, and I say to you that this achievement was made by all of us. We are proud of it and we are preparing for other achievements. Moreover, we are planning more achievements in our national enterprise until we liberate Palestine and establish our independent state, God willing. May God bless you, peace and God’s mercy and blessings be upon you.”
Newspaper – Middle East, Middle East