Gilad Shalit's release: in pictures

Prisoner swap deal between Israel and Palestine gets underway.

Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier imprisoned by Hamas militants in 2006, has been handed over to Egyptian mediators after being held in Gaza for five years. He will then be transferred to the Kerem Shalom crossing between Egypt and Israel.

To secure the 25 year old's release, Israel has agreed to free more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israel. The first 477 are being released today, with a further 550 freed at a later date.

While Shalit is undergoing medical tests before being taken back to Israel, these 477 prisoners are being driven to Israel, destined either for return to Gaza or exile abroad. Hamas is preparing a hero's welcome for the 295 prisoners returning to Gaza.

Israeli families of victims of terrorist attacks appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court to delay the swap, but the bid was rejected.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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What can you do about Europe's refugee crisis?

The death of a three-year-old boy on a beach in Europe has stirred Britain's conscience. What can you do to help stop the deaths?

The ongoing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean dominates this morning’s front pages. Photographs of the body of a small boy, Aylan Kurdi, who washed up on a beach, have stunned many into calling for action to help those fleeing persecution and conflict, both through offering shelter and in tackling the problem at root. 

The deaths are the result of ongoing turmoil in Syria and its surrounding countries, forcing people to cross the Med in makeshift boats – for the most part, those boats are anything from DIY rafts to glorified lilos.

What can you do about it?
Firstly, don’t despair. Don’t let the near-silence of David Cameron – usually, if nothing else, a depressingly good barometer of public sentiment – fool you into thinking that the British people is uniformly against taking more refugees. (I say “more” although “some” would be a better word – Britain has resettled just 216 Syrian refugees since the war there began.)

A survey by the political scientist Rob Ford in March found a clear majority – 47 per cent to 24 per cent – in favour of taking more refugees. Along with Maria Sobolewska, Ford has set up a Facebook group coordinating the various humanitarian efforts and campaigns to do more for Britain’s refugees, which you can join here.

Save the Children – whose campaign director, Kirsty McNeill, has written for the Staggers before on the causes of the crisis – have a petition that you can sign here, and the charity will be contacting signatories to do more over the coming days. Or take part in Refugee Action's 2,000 Flowers campaign: all you need is a camera-phone.

You can also give - to the UN's refugee agency here, and to MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station), or to the Red Cross.

And a government petition, which you can sign here, could get the death toll debated in Parliament. 

 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.