MLA’s relief over Shalit’s safe release

In this photo released by the Israeli Government Press Office, released Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit,  is escorted by his father Noam Schalit, right, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense minster Ehud Barak as he arrives at Tel Nof Air base in southern Israel, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011. Looking thin, weary and dazed, the  Israeli soldier returned home Tuesday from more than five years of captivity in the Gaza Strip in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners whose joyful families greeted them with massive celebrations. (AP Photo/ GPO, HO) ISRAEL OUT
In this photo released by the Israeli Government Press Office, released Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, is escorted by his father Noam Schalit, right, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense minster Ehud Barak as he arrives at Tel Nof Air base in southern Israel, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011. Looking thin, weary and dazed, the Israeli soldier returned home Tuesday from more than five years of captivity in the Gaza Strip in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners whose joyful families greeted them with massive celebrations. (AP Photo/ GPO, HO) ISRAEL OUT

THE release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has been warmly welcomed by a DUP MLA who met the missing conscript’s parents last year.

North Antrim assemblyman David McIlveen said he was relieved at news of the soldier’s freedom and criticised the Palestinians for their “illegal” and “inhumane” treatment of Shalit.

Speaking yesterday, Mr McIlveen said: “I had the opportunity to meet with Sgt Shalit’s family just over one year ago. This family were clearly heartbroken as at that time they did not know if their son was dead or alive.

“Sgt Shalit was only 19 when he was abducted and at the time was not even a full-time soldier.”

Mr McIlveen claims the Red Cross were not allowed access to the soldier during his incarceration, contrary to international law.

“When you consider the rights afforded to the Palestinian prisoners being released today from Israeli prisons, the humanitarian differences between the Israeli and Palestinian governments are clear to see,” he said.

The Northern Ireland Friends of Israel group paid tribute to all who prayed for Shalit’s safe return but added: “We think of those families who will never see their loved ones again and who have witnessed killers and accomplices walking free as part of the deal to bring Gilad home.”