Hundreds of people began gathering at the Schalit family tent set up outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem Saturday afternoon to offer their support to the family's demand that their son, Gilad, be released from Hamas captivity in the Gaza Strip. Saturday marks the fifth anniversary of Gilad Schalit's kidnapping by Hamas terrorists along the Gaza border.

Gilad's mother and father, Aviva and Noam, as well as brother Yoel chained themselves to a fence outside the Prime Minister's Residence, saying that they are "a family in captivity." Hundreds of supporters and protesters gathered to support the Schalit family, under the banner: Five years - No achievements.

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Aviva Schalit, speaking with Channel 2 news, had a message for the prime minister: "Return Gilad tomorrow morning. We're a family [that's been] in captivity for five years. We're tired of sitting in front of the Prime Minister's Residence. We want to go home, but we want to go home with Gilad."

Also taking place Saturday evening, some 3,000 people rallied outside the Cesarea Museum near Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's private residence in a planned show of public pressure on the prime minister to advance a prisoner exchange deal that would free the IDF soldier. The event, which is being billed as a "march on Cesarea," is intended to show the prime minister that "his political future is directly related wellbeing and release of Gilad," organizers said.


Beginning at 8 p.m., a 24-hour live broadcast began showing various celebrities and former POWs sitting inside a makeshift dark closet-like prison cell - for one hour each - to reflect the conditions of captivity Schalit is living in. Click here to watch the live broadcast.

On Sunday at 8:30 a.m., supporters are expected to join the weekly protest held by Gilad's parents, Noam and Aviva, outside the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. Noting the fifth anniversary of Schalit's kidnapping and the failure of government efforts to release him, the protesters plan to ask government ministers: "Dear Minister, five years have past. In captivity there is no tomorrow. When will you save Gilad?"

Zvi Schalit, the grandfather of captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, said Saturday that  Defense Minister Ehud Barak is attempting to broker a prisoner exchange with Hamas. Speaking at a rally held at Kerem Shalom, the site where he was captured,  he told the crowd that conflicts with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were delaying progress, Israel Radio reported.

Later Saturday, Barak responded through a Defense Ministry statement, which said, "Contrary to reports, Minister Ehud Barak does not accept Hamas's stance in relation to the terms of the [Schalit] deal." The statement added, "As Defense Minister Barak has said many times in the past, every possible and suitable move should be taken in order to bring about the release of Gilad, but not at any price." Barak, the statement continued "sees the importance of continuing and finding a way to formulate a deal that meets Israel's basic demands."

Coinciding with the somber anniversary, the United States on Friday called on Hamas to "release [kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit] immediately," criticizing the Gaza group's violation of "international humanitarian demands."

French Ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot on Saturday delivered a letter from French President Nicolas Sarkozy to the family of captive soldier Gilad Schalit at their protest tent in Jerusalem.

In the letter, which addresses the captive soldier directly, Sarkozy said, "I cannot accept that you are not permitted to have simple communications," urging his captors to allow the Red Cross to meet with him. "It is time for those responsible for your captivity make a decision and end your imprisonment," Army Radio reported.

The US joined France, and Ban Ki-moon of the UN Friday calling for the soldier's immediate release on humanitarian grounds, criticizing the groups disregard for a recent International Red Cross call on Hamas to allow Schalit's family contact with their son who is entering his sixth year in captivity on June 25.

France "has not forgotten Gilad Schalit," French Foreign Affairs Minister Alain Juppe said on Friday in a special communique published on the website of the French Embassy in Israel, a day before the Schalit family marks five years since their son was captured by Hamas.

Meanwhile, officials in the Gaza Strip said that meeting their demands is the only way the captive soldier can be returned home.

Spokesman for Gaza's Popular Resistance Committee Abu Mujahid said that Schalit will not be released until all of his captors' demands are met, Army Radio reported. He also mentioned French involvement in efforts to release Schalit while threatening more kidnappings. "Gilad was not kidnapped in Paris - he was a soldier whose mission was to kill women and children," Abu Mujahid said.

Earlier this week, 12 human rights organizations called  for an immediate end to Hamas's "inhumane and illegal treatment" of the captured soldier.

Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki-moon also called on Friday for the immediate release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, pledging continued support of the UN for achieving this goal.

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