Under a carefully choreographed Israeli-Palestinian prisoner exchange, the 25-year-old sergeant was taken to Egypt's Sinai peninsula, where the Israel Defense Forces took custody of him and returned him to Israeli soil.
A helicopter flew Shalit, who was captured in 2006, to an Israeli air base where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were waiting to welcome him home.
The army released photographs of Shalit, back in uniform, saluting Netanyahu before he was reunited with his family. Military footage showed him hugging his father, Naom Shalit.
A medical exam found the freed soldier to be in good health, but weak and underweight. He was expected to undergo more tests before returning to his northern Israel home in Mitzpe Hila.
The family has requested privacy in the coming weeks as their son adjusts to freedom.
Under the deal reached between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, a total of 1,027 Palestinians will be freed in exchange for Shalit. The swap began in the predawn hours Tuesday as Israel started transporting 477 Palestinian detainees in heavily guarded convoys from jails to various Red Cross meeting points.
-- Edmund Sanders
Photo: Gilad Shalit, in uniform, walks with, from left to right, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Shalit's father, Naom Shalit, at Tel Nof air base Tuesday. Credit: Israel Defense Forces / Getty Images