Gilad Shalit was a 19-year-old soldier in the Israeli Defense Force more than five years ago when Hamas terrorist abducted and kidnapped him along the border with Gaza. Shalit was held in isolation and stripped of his basic human rights as outlined in the Geneva Convention. A massive campaign for his release triggered an outpouring of international support, and Israeli citizens united within their own borders demanding his freedom through protests, marches, and social media sites.

Releasing 1000 Prisoners in Exchange For 1 Soldier

Last week, on October 11, 2011, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that a deal had been reached with Hamas, an internationally-recognized terrorist organization, to secure the release of Shalit. The agreement entailed the release of over one-thousand convicted Palestinian criminals held in Israeli jails in exchange for the freedom of the single Israeli soldier.

On Tuesday, October 18, 2011, the Israeli government freed 477 prisoners as part of the first phase of the deal. In return, Hamas released Shalit from captivity, with another 550 Palestinian criminals from Israel's prison set to be released in the coming months.

Amidst jubilance and relief, though, many in Israel have expressed outrage over the deal. Their anger stems from the fact that many of the Palestinian prisoners released are men and women directly responsible for some of the worst terrorist attacks in their country's history.

Victims Live in Terror as Their Attackers Walk the Streets Again

In fact, terror victims and their families attempted an unsuccessful last-minute appeal to block the release of those directly involved in deadly attacks. One survivor, who lost five family members in 2001 when a suicide bomber detonated himself in a popular pizzeria in Jerusalem, vandalized a popular memorial in protest. The woman responsible for driving the terrorist to the pizza restaurant was among those freed in the deal, and she has since vowed to renew her efforts.

Both the knowledge of the release of terrorists and the images of their freedom is likely to trigger renewed PTSD symptoms among survivors and loved ones of terrorist attacks, Israeli mental health providers are now warning. Many are feeling isolated and ignored as people cheer the return of a soldier considered by Israeli citizens as everyone's son.

The Impact PTSD Has on Life

Israeli Professor Danny Brom, of the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma at Herzog Hospital noted that those who have been directly affected by terrorism in particular may suffer deep anxiety.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder triggered after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event where injury or death is either likely or actual. Traumas include kidnappings, natural disasters, violence, abuse, car accidents, rape and combat duty. Victims experience ongoing symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, numbness, angry outbursts, difficulty concentrating, hyper vigilance and social withdrawal.

Sufferers struggle with daily routines and are unable to return to normal life, emotionally paralyzed from their traumatic experiences. Treatment usually involves psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavior therapy to understand thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and medications to address the biological manifestations of the condition.

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Michele Rosenthal
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