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Shalit Supporters Prepared for Release

With the preparations for Gilad Shalit’s return to the family home at Mitzpeh Hila nearly completed, attention has now turned to other logistical arrangements in the Galilee community for his homecoming, including accommodating the needs of a large media contingent.

Makeshift television studios have been built, and stages erected at the end of the path leading to the Shalit home. On Sunday, television crews jostled for space as curious onlookers came by to snap a picture of the house.

Police officers have already been posted around the home in anticipation of Shalit’s expected return tomorrow. Access to the house will be restricted to immediate family members. Politicians, journalists and activists from the campaign to free Gilad Shalit will be barred.

Gilad is to be reunited with his parents, Noam and Aviva Shalit, at the Tel Nof air force base, after which the three of them will be taken by helicopter back to Mitzpeh Hila, where the rest of the family will be waiting.

On Sunday, a Blackhawk helicopter circled over the home, landed in a clearing just a few meters from the house and took off again, in an apparent rehearsal and check of the improvised helipad.

Throughout the day Sunday Shalit’s family remained inside, with occasional forays outside for fresh air or to tend to a chore. In the evening the European Union’s ambassador in Israel, Andrew Standley, arrived with a message from the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton. Standley said he came to congratulate the family on their son’s anticipated release and that the EU had been supportive of the family during Shalit’s five and a half years in captivity. Gilad Shalit holds dual French-Israeli citizenship.

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