Former IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who spent more than five years as a prisoner in the Gaza Strip, celebrated his first birthday since his release on Tuesday. He is now 26 years old.

Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on June 25, 2006 in a cross-border raid. He was released on October 18, 2011 in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, many of whom had committed major terrorist acts against Israelis.

Shalit’s captivity garnered international attention, and his parents’ relentless quest for his freedom became a cause celebre in Israel.

On April 18, 2012, Shalit was discharged from the military with the rank of Sergeant Major.