Zuhair al-Qaissi, the Gaza terror chief blown up in his car in an Israeli strike on Friday, publicly acknowledged his link to the Shalit affair in the days after Gilad Shalit was freed in a lopsided prisoner exchange last October.
Speaking to the newspaper Al-Hayat immediately after Shalit had been released, al-Qaissi, the head of the Hamas-linked Popular Resistance Committees, detailed the messages that had been received from the day of Shalit’s kidnapping — messages sent via Arab government officials, from Israel — making all sorts of offers and promises if Shalit were released. “We refused to respond to these threats,” he said.
He gave details of the initial interrogation of Shalit by his colleagues in the PRC. He named those colleagues as Imad Hamad, who he said abducted Shalit and who was later killed by Israel, and previous PRC chief Kamal A-Nirev.
“Shalit was very suspicious, but he responded clearly to the questions during the first hours that he was held by the military arm of the Popular Committees,” said Al-Qaissi.
He also said Shalit was given over to Hamas, because only Hamas “had the capabilities and the locations which allowed them to keep the prisoner in a safe secret place.”
“He had access to radio and television. We took care of him, his physical and mental health. He was not given over to any emotional or physical torture. He was lightly injured in the course of his capture, and he received the necessary medical care and completely healed,” al-Qaissi said.
In a second interview with the Associated Press in Gaza City a few days later, on October 23, al-Qaissi claimed that Shalit, who was held for more than five years, was treated well, given sufficient food and allowed to watch Hebrew-language TV.
Shalit was provided food that “fits him as a Jew,” said al-Qaissi. “The way Shalit looked when he was released proved that he was treated well,” he said.
The assertion was immediately countered by Shalit’s father Noam, who said his son had “endured harsh things.” Gilad, added Noam, was suffering from malnutrition, the effects of isolation and lack of exposure to sun, and also wounds sustained during his capture that had not been allowed to heal.
Noam said claims that his son was not tortured during his time in Hamas captivity should be taken “with a grain of salt.”
“Gilad went through harsh things, at least in the first period (that he was held.” After that, Noam added, “the way he was treated improved.”