Mashaal: More will be kidnapped

Hamas leader says price for Schalit will rise if demands not met.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN,
June 29, 2010 02:15
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

mashaal 311. (photo credit: AP)

Hamas plans to kidnap more IDF soldiers and the price for captive tank gunner Gilad Schalit will increase if Israel doesn’t meet its demands for a prisoner swap, Damascus-based Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal warned on Monday.

He spoke at a Palestinian students conference in Damascus, as thousands of marchers in the north of Israel joined Schalit’s parents, Aviva and Noam, in calling for Gilad to be released now.

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On Monday evening, Aviva and Noam completed the second day of an 11-day trek to Jerusalem to demand that the government free their son, who has been held by Hamas in Gaza since June 25, 2006, when he was kidnapped as he patrolled the southern border of the Strip.


“Gilad will not be the only one,” Mashaal said. “We will kidnap more soldiers, including officers. We will not free Schalit until [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu gives in to our just demands.

“Israel is responsible for the failure in negotiations,” Mashaal added, saying he had relayed a message to the German mediator: “If you come to the negotiations table again with Netanyahu’s demands – don’t come, stay where you are.”

Directing his remarks to the prime minister, Mashaal said: “We will not repeat our requests over and over. You know the list [of security prisoners demanded], and we will not change it.”

The Hamas leader added, “We will not be flexible in our demands. As time goes by, our demands will grow, and so will the price. Israel is America’s lackey, that wants to strengthen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas, and therefore is the real one to blame for the failure in negotiations.”

Barak hints that military option to free Schalit exists

Meanwhile, at the Labor faction meeting in the Knesset on Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak hinted that a military option existed for freeing Gilad.

“We sent Gilad Schalit [to the Gaza border], and we must do everything possible to bring him home,” Barak told the Labor MKs. “There are negotiations that must develop to create the possibility of his return, and there are other channels of action – and it would be wrong to elaborate about them.”

As he stood at a large rally in Kiryat Motzkin, just north of Haifa, Shimshon Liebman, who heads the Campaign to Free Gilad Schalit, said he had not heard about Mashaal’s or Barak’s comments. His focus was solely on the task at hand: helping organize a march that has attracted thousands of people.

The Campaign has demanded that the government reach an agreement with Hamas to release Gilad, but only because that seems to be the best option available at this time, Liebman told The Jerusalem Post.

“If the government knows how to do it differently it should do so,” he said.

The Campaign isn’t trying to tell the government how to free Schalit, it is only insisting that after four years it must do so now.

Liebman explained that the Campaign had not set the terms of the swap. Since the last government, Hamas has demanded 1,000 prisoners and that has not changed, he said.

Sources say Israel willing to release 1,000 prisoners for Schalit

According to diplomatic sources, Israel has expressed a willingness to release about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including 450 names agreed upon with Hamas, in return for Schalit, on condition that more than 100 of these prisoners who are responsible for some 600 Israeli deaths are not allowed to return to the West Bank, but go either to the Gaza Strip or another country.

Israel is also refusing to release “mega terrorists” responsible for the worst atrocities over the past 20 years, including the attack at the Dolphinarium discotheque suicide bombing in Tel Aviv in 2001 (21 teenagers dead and 132 wounded), the Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing in Jerusalem in 2001 (15 civilians dead and 130 wounded), and the Park Hotel massacre in Netanya on Seder night in 2002 (30 civilians killed and 140 wounded).

On Sunday, Netanyahu invited Aviva and Noam to meet with him when they arrive in Jerusalem on July 8 and park themselves in a tent that was put up a number of years ago outside the Prime Minister’s Residence.

On Monday, Noam Schalit told Israel Radio that when he and his wife meet with Netanyahu, “We will demand action and results.” Four years was enough time for the government to implement options other than a prisoner swap, he said. “The bottom line is that there are no results.”

On Monday morning, when the Schalits set out from Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot, they were joined by 1,000 people as they headed to Acre. From there, 3,500 walked with them to Kiryat Motzkin, according to police.

In Kiryat Motzkin, the city helped organize a rally for Gilad Schalit. A huge banner with his picture fluttered above a flower-filled traffic circle located next to the demonstration. Traffic was stalled in the area, as thousands crowded onto a grassy area to hear the family speak. In the middle of the circle, a war memorial with a tank was decked out in yellow ribbons.

“We are standing here and it is very exciting to see all the people that are here with us,” Noam said at the rally.

“I hope that this movement, the many people that arrived and swept us away, will continue to arrive and continue to support us and become bigger and stronger.”

His comments were met with enthusiastic applause.

“We expected hundreds but thousands arrived,” Schalit said. He called on people to march with the family and then to protest with them in Jerusalem until Gilad is returned to Israel.

Gilad’s grandfather Tzvi Schalit said in Kiryat Motzkin that when he met with the prime minister last week, he told Netanyahu that every day his grandson was not freed, was a day in which he faces a death sentence.

Schalit's grandfather urges Netanyahu to act

He urged Netanyahu to act even before the family reached Jerusalem.

The Schalit rally took place not far from the apartment where IDF reservist Eldad Regev grew up, and on the Hebrew anniversary of his death. Regev, 26, and fellow reservist Ehud Goldwasser, 31, were killed on July 12, 2006, as they patrolled the Lebanese border. Hizbullah snatched their corpses and returned them in exchange for incarcerated Palestine Liberation Front terrorist Samir Kuntar, four Hizbullah gunmen, and the bodies of about 200 Lebanese and Palestinian terrorists two years later.

The Schalit family and their supporters plan to continue with their march on Tuesday.

The Traffic Police have asked drivers to note the following road closures: At 7:30 a.m., marchers will set off from the Mozart junction in Kiryat Motzkin to Haifa Port, which they are expected to reach at noon. At 3:30 p.m., they will walk from the Checkpost junction in Haifa to Kibbutz Yagur.

The marchers will be restricted to the highway shoulder and accompanied by police, but delays are nonetheless expected on the following routes: Highway 4 from Kiryat Motzkin to the Kiryat Ata junction, then Route 22 to the Home Center in Haifa, and then Rehov Ha’atzmaut leading to the Haifa Port.

Rehov Halutzei Hata’asiya in Haifa will be blocked off completely until the marchers reach Route 22.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.


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