Grapel reunited with family in Jerusalem

Ilan Grapel and Benjamin Netanayhu

Ilan Grapel and Benjamin Netanayhu

The US student who was held prisoner in Egypt for four months has thanked Israel for securing his release.

Ilan Grapel, a former IDF soldier who has dual Israeli and American citizenship, was detained on allegations that he was spying for Mossad. He was never charged and his family said he was in Cairo because he was working for an NGO.

He was freed last night in exchange for 25 Egyptian convicts being held in Israeli jails.

On his return, he told reporters that he wished to thank the Israeli people and noted: "Once it would have taken 40 years to get out of the desert."

He thanked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others who had worked to bring him home, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US congressman Gary Ackerman.

He said he had been treated respectfully by the Egyptian authorities.

His mother, Irene, said she was overjoyed to have her son home. "My heart was broken for four and a half months," she said.

Mr Netanyahu expressed his gratitude to the Egyptian and US governments, adding that the deal to return him had been "hanging on a thread".

Last updated: 9:23am, October 28 2011