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Israel and Hamas have held numerous rounds of talks through German and Egyptian mediators. But officials on both sides have said that conditions prompted in part by the recent Egyptian revolution helped drive them to an agreement. Both sides have been eager to have good ties with the new Egyptian leadership.

News of the deal was welcomed by the United States, Britain, France and Germany, among others. Sgt. Schalit holds French citizenship, while a German mediator was closely involved in the years of negotiations.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking while on a stop in Tripoli, Libya, on Tuesday, said the U.S. was pleased the ordeal was over.

“He was held for far too long in captivity,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Gaza Strip; Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank; and Tia Goldenberg contributed to this report.