Gaza March 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Gaza demonstrators on Sunday demanded that Hamas secure the release of
prisoners held in Israeli prisons, in a swap for abducted soldier Gilad
as Israeli protesters urged the government to be flexible, so that it
bring Schalit home after four years.
Indirect negotiations between Hamas
and Israel stalled at the end of last year. But thousands of Israelis in
last week have tried to jump-start the negotiations with their feet as
joined Schalit’s parents, Noam and Aviva, who on June 27 began an 11-day
Gaza families on Schalit: No prisoner exchange deal
Mashaal: Hamas won't back down
Media reports speculated that the issue of Schalit’s continued
captivity in Gaza was the focus of talks held in Cairo on Sunday by Egyptian
security chief Omar Suleiman, National Security Adviser Uzi Arad and Yitzhak
Molcho, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Egypt has
previously mediated between Israel and Hamas in the negotiations for Schalit’s
The Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday night denied the
Earlier in the day, Gazans marched to the home of Hamas “Foreign
Minister” Mahmoud Zahar and urged him to work for the release of all
prisoners held by Israel.
Netanyahu has offered to trade 1,000
terrorists, including 450 Hamas members, for Schalit. But he has refused
release some of the most dangerous terrorists on the list and has
some of the prisoners not be allowed back into the West Bank for fear
could travel from there to anywhere in Israel to carry out more terror
Zahar told the demonstrators: “We promise to do all we can for
the hero prisoners to return to their homes and families. We have no
give up on our prisoners’ freedom. We are close to reaching our goals of
releasing the prisoners and having all the refugees return to their
To the prisoners, he said, “We won’t give up on you, and no
matter how long it takes, we won’t give up before we see you free.”
response, Amir Gur-Lavie of the Campaign to Free Gilad Schalit said he
the authenticity” of the march to Zahar’s home.
Gur-Lavie, who is a
neighbor of the Schalit family in the Upper Galilee town of Mitzpe Hila,
with The Jerusalem Post
after the Herzliya leg of the march.
“You can not
rally freely in Gaza,” Gur-Lavie said. He added he could only assume
march was staged by Hamas.Schalit March joined by Israeli astronaut's widow
Sunday was the seventh day that the Schalit
family and their supporters have been on the road. Although they started
Mitzpe Hila on June 27, they stopped walking for Shabbat and resumed
on Sunday morning toward Herzliya.
They were joined there by Rona Ramon,
the widow of Israeli astronaut Col. Ilan Ramon, who was killed in the
of the Columbia space shuttle in February 2003. Their son, Capt. Assaf
killed when his F-16 fighter jet crashed in the South Hebron Hills
training mission last September.
As she looked out at the crowd of
supporters in Herzliya, Rona Ramon said, “The power of speech is
diminished in a
place like this. I offer this personal prayer. May it be possible to
can be changed.
Gilad is still alive.”
Gilad’s brother Yoel called
on the prime minister to conclude a deal for his brother.
“I call upon
you [Netanyahu] to listen to your nation and to do everything, more than
have done until now, to free my brother,” Yoel Schalit said.
left Kibbutz Shefayim at 9 a.m., causing massive traffic jams as they
Herzliya. Highway 4 was closed for the marchers until they reach Kfar
Drivers cheered the rally despite the traffic jams it
After holding two events in Herzliya, the marchers continued onto
the Ayalon Highway, where they were joined by thousands of more
Several lanes on Ayalon South were closed to traffic to allow the
marchers to cross safely as they reached the Glilot interchange.
Monday, the family will march past the north Tel Aviv home of Defense
Ehud Barak and hold a rally in Kikar Rabin. In the afternoon, they will
break from marching and travel by car south to the Kerem Shalom area
Gaza, to visit the spot where Gilad was kidnapped.
At 5:30 p.m.,
conductor Zubin Mehta plans to hold a special performance of the Israel
Philharmonic Orchestra in honor of Gilad at the Eshkol National Park
Mehta said on Sunday he hopes the concert will inspire
Gazans to pressure the Hamas government to allow the International Red
visit the soldier for the first time.AP and Jerusalem Post staff
contributed to this report.