18 October 2011
Last updated at 22:53
This grainy image from Egyptian TV was the first sight the world had had of Sgt Gilad Shalit since a video message in 2009. He was abducted in 2006 by Hamas militants who had tunnelled into Israel.
In return for his release, Israel agreed to free 477 Palestinian prisoners, with another 550 to follow next month. At dawn on Tuesday, a convoy of Israeli secure buses arrived at Ofer prison to transport some of those involved in the swap.
Sgt Shalit's parents Noam (at the front, in the blue shirt) and Aviva (arms folded) left their home in Galilee for a helicopter flight to Tel Nof, where they would be reunited with their son.
At the Beitunia checkpoint, Palestinians waited for the prisoners being released into the West Bank. Not all will return home: some are being exiled to Gaza, while about 40 are being deported to third countries including Syria, Turkey and Qatar.
Meanwhile in Israel, all eyes were on the progress of Gilad Shalit's return. These soldiers serving with the Israel Defence Forces' spokespersons' unit watched as the painstakingly choreographed sequence of events unfolded on live TV.
Once Sgt Shalit was handed over, he was able to speak to his parents for the first time in more than five years.
At the same time, Palestinian prisoners were entering Gaza. Many of them had been serving lengthy prison terms, convicted of attacks on Israeli soil.
In the West Bank, there was an emotional reunion for this released prisoner - one of 27 women freed under the deal.
The deal has boosted Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya (pictured) in the rivalry with the Fatah faction led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
For Palestinians, it was a day of celebration, and thousands joined a rally in Gaza City.
Sgt Shalit was reunited with his parents at Tel Nof airbase and also met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Later, the family returned to their hometown of Mitzpe Hila, in northern Israel, where Sgt Shalit received a hero's welcome. But some in Israel have questioned the high cost to Israel of his release.
Correspondents say the exchange is unlikely to have an effect on the wider peace talks, which broke down more than a year ago. In Ramallah, on the West Bank, Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forces at the Beitunia checkpoint.