Gilad Shalit reunited with family in Israel

Gilad Shalit on his way to meet his family again

Gilad Shalit on his way to meet his family again

Gilad Shalit has been reunited with his family in Israel.

The Israeli soldier, who returned to Israel today after more than five years as a prisoner of Hamas, met his parents Noam and Aviva at the Tel Nof Army base.

He was 19 when they last saw him, before he was kidnapped by terrorists at the Gaza border. The family have dedicated the last five years to campaigning for their son 's release and took up residence in a protest tent outside the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem to highlight his plight.

He was also greeted by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr Netanyahu told reporters that he had hugged Sergeant Shalit and took him to his parents. "I told them, 'I return your son home to you'," he said.

Gilad Shalit hugs his father Noam for the first time since June 2006

Gilad Shalit hugs his father Noam for the first time since June 2006

"Today, now, Gilad has returned home to his family, to his people, to his state. It involved a very difficult decision. Before my eyes was the need to return home the one who was sent to the battlefield by the state of Israel."

According to the IDF, the transfer of the first 477 Palestinian prisoners who have been released as part of the deal has been completed with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Throughout Sergeant Shalit's captivity, Hamas repeatedly denied the Red Cross access to the soldier.

Last updated: 12:00pm, October 18 2011