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An audacious campaign to draw attention to the plight of the three kidnapped IDF soldiers, held in captivity for a year, is to be launched in the UK on Monday.
The "Free the Three" campaign - a grassroots initiative led by London lawyer Michael Metliss, working closely with advertising specialist Mark Cave - calls for the safe release of the soldiers and urges people to add their voices to the growing campaign.
On Monday, a full-page advertisement will go in The Times newspaper, and on Tuesday in the Evening Standard. In addition, billboards will be driven around central London and parked outside the major media outlets across the capital. This includes the BBC, Sky, ITN, Reuters, News International, Associated Press and The Guardian. The advertising trucks will also be at the major political venues, including the Houses of Parliament and headquarters of the Labour and Conservative parties. They will also be at the embassies of Iran, Lebanon and Syria.
Metliss came up with the idea following the release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston, and in the space of a week, raised all the necessary funds while working with Cave on the campaign. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Metliss said: "The money has been raised entirely privately, and the level of that support so far has been tremendous. Hopefully people will see this as an effective way of communicating a message and getting public support for it."
The campaign centers on Johnston's release, but calls for the remaining "Alan Johnstons" to be freed, as well. "One Alan Johnston is out, three Alan Johnstons aren't," it says.
"Following the release of Alan, and the massive BBC campaign which rightly kept his captivity in the public eye, I felt there were other hostages held for longer whose plight had not been publicized - especially [IDF Cpl.] Gilad Schalit, who is being held in Gaza by Hamas, the very people who are being credited with having procured Alan's release," Metliss said. "On the day of his release, The Times had a front-page headline, actually referring to the five British hostages held in Iraq in similar circumstances. Why wasn't the plight of the three kidnapped Israeli soldiers not also highlighted in equal measure?
"It just so happened that a rally for the three had been called outside the United Nations on July 16, so I thought that some ads in the press for that day would be a good idea. The objective is to show that we are thinking of them, but more importantly to help get these boys released using imaginative advertising to raise awareness of their circumstances and increase public support for their plight," he added.
The text of the campaign reads: "After 114 days in captivity in Gaza, Alan Johnston was finally set free on July 3. It must have been a moment of indescribable joy for his family and friends. In fact, for any of us who care about human rights, it was a great day.
"But it's not over. Others remain in this perilous situation, including three taken hostage last summer. Gilad Schalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were all kidnapped from inside their own country, Israel. So as we all spoke out on Alan Johnston's behalf, now we must speak out on theirs. In fact, on behalf of anyone held in such inhuman conditions. It's time to end the ordeal endured by all hostages and their families and ensure that basic human justice is done."
The campaign urges the public to visit www.freethethree.co.uk and register their support.
The initiative ties in with rallies outside the Syrian Embassy in London and in central Manchester on Monday evening, organized by the Zionist Federation of the UK as part of the international day of action to raise the issue of the soldiers' plight.
The plight of Ron Arad, Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz, Zvi Feldman and Guy Hever will also be raised at the rallies.