5 years on: Zvi Schalit says Barak attempting prisoner swap

Gilad Schalit enters 6th year in captivity, French FM says Schalit longest-held French prisoner; UN chief to Hamas: Provide Schalit family contact with son; Hamas threatens more kidnappings.

June 25, 2011 16:53
3 minute read.
Cardboard cutouts of Schalit at a 2009 rally

Schalit cardboard cutouts 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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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.

Saturday marks exactly five years since Schalit was kidnapped in a cross-border raid. Despite many attempts by international agencies, his family has been completely denied access to him.

Group protests state’s failure to bring Schalit home
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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."

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.

"On the eve of the sad anniversary of the fifth year of Gilad Schalit's captivity, I want to reiterate that the situation of our compatriot, held in defiance of the most basic principles of international humanitarian law, is unacceptable," Juppe said in the statement. "It is also unique: Gilad Schalit is, today, the French hostage who has been held in captivity the longest."

The French foreign minister added, "We've mobilized our partners and continue to work tirelessly for [Schalit's] release, in coordination with other ongoing mediation efforts."


Paris continues to demand that the Red Cross be allowed to visit Schalit, Juppe said.

"For Gilad Schalit, there is no Arab Spring: The wind of freedom blowing through the region has not reached him. Nobody can be indifferent to the drama he and his family have experienced for nearly five years now.

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.

To mark the fifth year of Schalit's captivity, Amnesty International said in a press release that it is circulating a petition to its activists worldwide demanding that Hamas ease the suffering of Gilad and his family. The petition will be presented to Hamas prime minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh.

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.

Ban also joined the International Red Cross in calling on Hamas to protect Schalit's life, treat him humanely, prove that he is alive, and provide his family with the ability to have contact with their son.

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