Egyptian anchorwoman Shahira Amin, who came under fire for her insensitive interview with Gilad Shalit moments after he was released from Hamas captivity, told the BBC network that she was unaware that Shalit was forced to submit to an interview.
"We are all shocked that a so-called interview was forced on (Shalit) before he could even talk to his family or set foot on Israeli soil," an Israeli official said.
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Responding to harsh criticism of what was described by many media outlets as a "cruel" interview, Amin said she asked to conduct the interview, and was simply told it would be arranged. However, it was not confirmed until the last moment, she said, adding she did not realize it was a forced interview.
A gaunt, pale and uncomfortable looking Shalit appeared to struggle to speak at points during the appearance on Egyptian state TV, and his breathing was noticeably labored as he awkwardly answered questions.
Officials in Israel said Tuesday evening they were surprised by the Egyptian interview and were unaware of Cairo's plans. Defense officials stressed that the TV interview was not undertaken with Israel's consent, coordination or knowledge.
As Israeli officials did not imagine that the Egyptians would seek to interview Shalit, the issue was not discussed in the meetings ahead of the swap and no request to avoid such interview was submitted by Jerusalem.
Amin became one of the heroes of Egypt's uprising in February of this year after quitting the Nile TV network to join anti-government protestors.
Shalit before the interview (Photo: AP)
At the time she said she was not allowed to cover what was happening at Cairo's Tahrir Square, adding that she did not wish to be part of a "propaganda machine."
However, Amin's crude interview with Shalit Tuesday morning featured heavy pro-Egyptian and pro-Palestinian propaganda. Through the interview, the anchorwoman attempted to prompt Shalit to praise Egypt for its role in arranging the prisoner exchange.
At one point she also asked the Israeli soldier whether he would be joining a campaign to free Arab prisoners held by Israel upon his return to the Jewish State.
During Tuesday's interview, which was aired by Egypt's national television station, it appeared that Amin was virtually abusing Shalit, moments after he was brought to Egypt from Gaza.
Responding to the anchorwoman's question regarding remaining Palestinian prisoners, Shalit said he would be happy to see them released, as long as they no longer attack Israel.
An Egyptian security official said the interview and all the details of Schalit's handover went according to agreements between Israel, Egypt and Hamas. The official claimed Israel knew about the interview in advance.
"The Egyptians didn't force him to give the interview. If he refused or if the Israelis refused, he wouldn't have given the interview," said the official.
AP contributed to the report
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