Free GIlad Shalit: Time in Captivity

Poll: Five Years On. What should the Israeli Government do?

What action should the Israeli Government take now that Hamas has clear control of Gaza and it has been 1 year since Gilad Shalit was been kidnapped
Negotiate with Hamas
Negotiate with Hamas, release as many prisoners as it takes
Hold the Hamas Leadership directly accountable
Hold the Leadership accountable and give them one final deadline before military action
Hold Leadership accountable, give deadline for military action and total cessation of all Israeli supplied electricty and Water.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

An interview with Gilad's Father

Noam Shalit

Lisa Goldman from On the Face blog interviewed Gilad's Father:

Hamas has confirmed that Gilad is alive and well, but nothing has been heard from him. He has not received any visits from the Red Cross and Hamas has not revealed where he is being held. There are many rumours about negotiations for his release in a prisoner exchange but, as Noam observed, the vast majority of the newspaper reports are disinformation. No-one knows whether Hamas and the Israeli government will reach an agreement at all, let alone when.

When I called Noam to request an interview, he said, very politely, that he did not have any new information about his son. I told him that we were interested in writing a piece about him. "But I am not the story," he protested gently.

Noam Shalit has been described as a hero and a symbol of peace. When asked whether it was true that he had spoken to Ghazi Hamad, the (Hamas) spokesman of the Palestinian Authority (PA) who recently expressed harsh criticism of his own people for their failure to build a functioning society in Gaza (article here), he said, "Yes, I’m not very political. He seemed like a nice man and I have no problem talking to anyone who is willing to talk to me and doesn’t want to kill me. " He speaks frequently with PA officials and is planning to visit Gaza in order to meet Hamas politicians.

He visited the families who were bereaved at Beit Hanoun, and he also visited the wounded residents of Beit Hanoun who were evacuated to Israeli hospitals.

"I know Beit Hanoun was a mistake, but it was a huge tragedy and a lot of innocent people who just want to live normal lives were caught between battling powers. At the hospital, I appealed for a break in the cycle of violence."

Quite a lot of people read about Noam Shalit’s actions and concluded that he was a leftist who did not represent mainstream Israeli society. Actually, I think he is a good example of Israel’s silent majority.

Noam describes himself as non-political. He did not vote in the last elections ("I was in Eilat") but when asked, he said he most identifies with Ehud Olmert’s centrist Kadima party. He also describes himself as pro-peace, although he thinks that calling him a hero of peace is "very exaggerated." He was "strongly" in favour of the withdrawal from Gaza because he saw it as a chance for peace: "I hoped that the Palestinians in Gaza would build businessess and hope for the future, factories and houses. But instead they built tunnels to smuggle weapons and they built bomb factories. It is very disappointing." But his desire for peace remains unshaken. "I really believe that the extremists on both sides are dragging us into this conflict. Because the vast majority on both sides, I think, want peace and quiet. We don’t love each other, but we are sick of wars and violence."

Gilad Shalit has become a symbol and a bargaining chip, but of course for Noam he is just his son - and he wants him back. Right now the negotiations for Gilad’s release are stuck on the issue of how many Palestinian political prisoners should be freed in an exchange (there is talk of exchanging 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails for Gilad), and also on who those prisoners should be. There is controversy, for example, about releasing Marwan Barghouti, the popular former Fatah activist who was sentenced in a Tel Aviv civilian court to five life sentences for murder and attempted murder (more about Barghouti here).

Noam sees all these negotations in simple and pragmatic terms: "I have appealed to the Palestinian and Israeli governments, not to make grand political deals on the back of my son. I know that the political prisoner issue is very important on the Palestinian street, but we won’t be able to resolve it using my son. They abduct my son, we jail Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament, and then they respond with another kidnapping... It’s endless, and nothing will be resolved like this. The only solution is for both parties to sit down and negotiate."

Gilad Shalit on the day of his army induction. Summer, 2005. (Gilad family photo).

We asked Noam if he had made any plans for Gilad’s return.

"No," said Noam. "We haven’t made any plans. We haven’t even thought about it. We know we will have to treat him very carefully because he was only 19 years old when he was abducted. He had been in the army for less than one year."

Then he said, "Gilad’s release seems so far away."


Story Credit and thanks to: Lisa Goldman [Original Post]
Lisa Goldman is a Canadian-Israeli freelance journalist, based in Tel Aviv.

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Gilad Shalit's father: Time not on our side

Left: Addressing foreign press (Photo: Avihu Shapira)

Father of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit expresses concern for son's safety, says family has nothing concrete to grasp to other than unverified reports; continues to turn to foreign media to ask kidnappers to show sign of life from his captive son.

"As long as we don't receive living proof that Gilad is alright, we have nothing to grasp to other than unverified reports at this stage," Shalit said Thursday.

"We know clearly that time is not on our side, but against us. We are not sure of anything," Shalit said.

He spoke with journalists Thursday afternoon and shared with them the experience his family had gone through in the last 24 hours.

Addressing the location of the body of Eliyahu Asheri, the kidnapped teenager from the settlement of Itamar, who was murdered by his captors, Shalit said: "This does not influence our issue, but we express sorrow for his death and send condolences to the family. I as a parent turn to the parents and ask them to guard their children, and certainly this request is especially meant for parents living in the West Bank."

Regarding the IDF operations in recent days, Shalit said: "I want to allow the government to utilize all moves to the fullest. It's clear that that it's impossible to decide it all in one move. We are all the time in touch with army and government officials, and I am assured and sure that the steps being taken now are carefully weighed, with the emphasis being on preventing the harming of innocent civilians on both sides."

"We are all human beings and I expect that Gilad's kidnappers prove that they are human beings. Until now we have not received any sign of life from them, but we hope to receive it as soon as possible," Shalit conclude.

Brigade Commander: We're doing everything

Lieutenant Colonel Yoav, commander of the armored corps brigade in which Gilad Shalit serves, arrived at the Shalit family home in Mitzpeh Hila and spoke with the parents.

"This is a strong family and I came to say that the brigade is with them. We will do everything and are doing everything in order to bring Gilad home," the officer said. He confirmed that the brigade was involved in the current fighting in Gaza.

Left: Commander leaves Shalit family's house (Photo: Avihu Shapira)

Noam Shalit was moved by the visit and thanked Yoav for his help. He asked that in addition to the intensive operations to bring back Gilad, the brigade also aid the bereaved families of two comrades who fell in the attack on the tank near Kerem Shalom.

Shalit made appeals to the foreign press, mainly in English, to try and bring additional pressure on his son's kidnappers and release at least a sign of life from Gilad.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz said during a situation analysis meeting in Tel Aviv that "we are in one of the most significant moments in deciding the rules of the game between us and terror elements in the Palestinian Authority in the near future."

The defense minister ordered "every operation taking place in the field to be examined in relation to its effectiveness."

YNet News:
By Hagai Einav

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Behind the Headlines: Rescuing Gilad Shalit from his Hamas kidnappers

Hamas has claimed responsiblity for the attack of an IDF post at the Kerem Shalom crossing.

On Sunday, June 25, 2006, Palestinian Hamas terrorists crossed in a tunnel from the Gaza Strip into Israel and attacked an IDF base at the Kerem Shalom crossing. Two soldiers were murdered, four were wounded (one seriously), and one soldier was abducted alive back to Gaza. Two terrorists were also killed in the attack. Hamas took responsibility for the raid, with its spokesman, Sami Abu Zahari, praising its perpetrators as “heroes of the Palestinian people.”

Israel considers the Palestinian Authority and its Hamas government to be fully responsible for the Kerem Shalom attack and for the fate of the kidnapped soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has all the necessary resources to ensure Shalit’s release and Israel calls on him to act immediately to resolve this crisis and avoid an unnecessary escalation of the conflict.

Similarly, Israel calls on the international community to use its influence vis-à-vis Chairman Abbas to obtain the release of Cpl. Shalit and to make clear to the PA the grave consequences of its failure to release him safe and sound.

In the absence of PA compliance with its humanitarian request, Israel reserves the right to take all necessary measures to implement the safe return of its kidnapped soldier.

Israel’s dead, wounded, and kidnapped soldiers were not the only victims of Sunday’s Hamas raid, for this terrorist raid is the latest in a series of attacks by Palestinian terrorist organizations on the main lifelines of the Palestinian population. The Palestinian terrorist organizations, in their fanatic opposition to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, regularly attack the crossings used to transfer goods and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip. Once again, Hamas has proven that it does not hesitate to inflict harm on its own Palestinian population in pursuit of Islamist jihad.

Sunday's attack also comes against the background of daily barrages of Kassam artillery rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists at Israeli towns adjacent to the Gaza Strip. Since Israel's complete disengagement from Gaza almost a year ago, over 500 such rockets have hit Israeli territory, killing and wounding scores of Israeli civilians.

In targeting Israel’s civilian population, the Palestinian terrorist organizations deliberately and callously place their own civilians at risk by launching these rockets from their own population centers. They further display their contempt for their own countrymen by attacking the very crossings which enable the entire Palestinian population of Gaza to receive its essential supplies of food, medications, and other daily needs.

Despite Israel’s every effort to maintain the passage of goods and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian population of Gaza, acts of terrorism oblige the security authorities to interrupt the flow of goods in order to safeguard those employed at the crossings and the forces protecting them.

As any sovereign state, Israel will take whatever steps necessary to protect its citizens and territory from Palestinian terrorism, the responsibility for whose consequences lies solely with the Palestinian Authority.

With this in mind, IDF units on June 28 began a combined, limited operation in the Gaza Strip for the purpose of rescuing the kidnapped soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit and bringing him safely home, while dealing a blow to the Hamas terrorist infrastructure to prevent the continuation of its attacks from Gaza on civilians inside Israel.

The IDF operation follows exhaustive, but unsuccessful, diplomatic efforts to secure Shalit’s release by giving PA Chairman Abbas the opportunity to return him to his family. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni held dozens of talks with her counterparts around the world, making it clear that, while Israel has indeed given priority to diplomatic efforts, it will not accept Hamas holding an Israeli citizen hostage and will do everything necessary to secure his release.

Concern for the fate of Gilad Shalit is growing among the entire population of Israel, for whom his release is a humanitarian matter of the highest order. While Israel certainly did not leave the Gaza Strip in order to return to it, the Government of Israel cannot accept its citizens being attacked by terrorists inside its territory day and night without exercising its sovereign right of self-defense.

Given that the Palestinian Authority is controlled by the Hamas terrorist organization, which took responsibility for the attack in which Cpl. Shalit was kidnapped, and after it became abundantly clear that the chairman of the Palestinian Authority is incapable of ensuring his return or preventing Kassam rocket fire, Israel had no choice but to act on its own. This rescue operation can be terminated immediately, conditional upon the release of Gilad Shalit.

It goes without saying that, in keeping with Israel’s policy of targeting only terrorist perpetrators, every effort will be made during this rescue operation to avoid harming innocent civilians. Israel expresses its hope that the international community will continue to pressure the Palestinian Authority, the Hamas terrorist organization, and its sponsors in order to bring about the release of Gilad Shalit and thereby avoid a further escalation of the situation.

Israel MFA: Behind the Headlines: Rescuing Gilad Shalit from his Hamas kidnappers

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Shalit's dad: 'Hope is all we have left'

"I didn't even call him after hearing of the Kerem Shalom attack. I didn't think he was in that area. He was supposed to be in the north," Noam Shalit, father of kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit said Monday morning.

Shalit told Army Radio that his son had chosen to serve in a tank unit since he had a relatively low profile.

He said that Gilad was in the IDF for 11 months and was enjoying his service.

Shalit said that he hoped that the kidnappers were treating with his son in the same way Israel treated Palestinian prisoners adding, "I hope that those holding Gilad have wives and families so they know how we are feeling."

In an expression of their deep concern, Noam and his wife, Aviva, published a letter to their son, with a message to his abductors.

"Mom and dad, Yoel and Hadas [his siblings], are worried about you very much," the letter said. "We want to hear you and hope you are feeling well... Know that we are constantly thinking about you.

"We believe that whoever is holding you has a family as well, and knows what we are going through."

Noam Shalit said that the family was encouraged by the knowledge that Gilad was forced to walk against his will during the incident rather than being dragged away by his assailants.

"I told the family that we know Gilad was forced to walk against his will during the incident. We believe he is alive and being held captive," OC Manpower Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern had told the family in their hometown of Mitzpe Hila, near Karmiel in the western Galilee.

Shalit told Israel Radio that the family believed that the army and the government were doing everything possible to secure his son's release, and that they hoped to hear good news as soon as possible.

"Hope is what we have left. We hope to hear signs of life and we hope Gilad is making it through these tough moments," Shalit said.

Neighbors of the family described the Shalits as "extremely quiet, gentle and nice," and said they were aghast after hearing about his capture. The family were keeping to themselves, and "it's so sad to hear about them for such a terrible reason," according to a neighbor.

The family were among the founders of the small community of Mitzpe Hila in the Lower Galilee, a popular retreat for Israelis seeking bed and breakfast establishments in the country's north.

"He's such a great kid," said the neighbor. "This is very hard for all of us. We are in shock since we heard about the incident," she said.

Her daughter, who attended school with Gilad, was visiting the family together with other members of the community. Shalit's family, like many others in the village, also rents out cabins.

"He's one of the funniest people I've ever met," Shalit's friend Dor Peled told Israel Radio. "He loves sports, soccer; he's very athletic." Peled said. He added that Shalit was a good friend, who had never done anyone a bad turn.

A student who excelled in mathematics, Shalit once sat with him for two hours before an exam, Peled said.

"What I couldn't learn in weeks he taught me in a couple of hours."

"The atmosphere here is very tense, but we are hoping for good news," Peled said.

Ilana Zrihen, another neighbor, said the family was just waiting to hear that their son would be home soon. "Gilad is a magical kid, quiet and cheerful, everyone's friend," she told Israel Radio. "May he come home soon," she added.

A military spokesman assisting the family related that Shalit's brigade commander Col. Moshe Asulin, who was present when the incident occurred, had visited the family and briefed them on the day's events. Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern, head of the IDF's human resources branch, also visited the family, the spokesman said.

In Jerusalem, thousands gathered at the Western Wall to pray for Shalit's safe return.

Article from JPost

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