shalit, gilad, 298 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
The family of the kidnapped soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit, 19, said Wednesday that they didn't want additional soldiers or innocent civilians to be killed in the operation Israel launched in Gaza that morning in an effort to find their son.
"We do not want to see harm come to additional soldiers or innocent civilians on either the Israeli or Palestinian side," Gilad's father Noam told the media as he stood at the edge of the lawn outside his northern Galilee home in Mitzpe Hila.
As the Israeli flag fluttered in the breeze above his red-tiled roof, he said he hoped that the decision to enter Gaza had been taken "wisely" and not "tempestuously." He and his wife have secluded themselves in their home since their son was abducted from his tank during a pre-dawn raid on an IDF post at Kerem Shalom on the Gaza border on Sunday.
Noam has spoken briefly with the media each day. As they endured day four without hearing any further news of their son, he told reporters that the family was still clinging to the hope that he was alive even though the launch of the Gaza operation following the failure of initial diplomatic efforts did increase their anxiety.
"We are trying not to lose hope and to believe that there will be developments," said Noam. "We can't afford to lose hope, especially now," he added. But reports from the field and the news of the Gaza operation have increased the level of "fear and uncertainty," he said.
On Wednesday morning he received a call from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who updated him on the search for his son. He said that the prime minister had called to offer support much as other ministers had in recent days. On Tuesday he received a call from Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and visits from Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Amir Peretz.
Noam said that he had also received a call from the parents of Lt. Hanan Barak, one of the two soldiers killed in the tank attack and who had served in the same tank as his son.
"We cried with them at their loss. We hope to go visit them in Arad with Gilad when he comes home safe and sound," said Noam. He added that in pursuit of that goal, he imagined that there would be some form of negotiations between Israel and Gilad's captors.
His words ran counter to those of Olmert's, who on Wednesday said that there would be no such negotiations. But Noam told the media, "You have to speak with someone in order to get results, whether you do it directly or through a third party." In the interim, Noam said, it would mean everything to the family if they could hear Gilad's voice or receive some sign that their son was alive and well. The lack of knowledge gets worse as time goes, Noam added.
As they wait to hear word of their son, they received a gift from a group of Gilad's friends who organized a small photo album for the family. The family's neighbor and friend Ilana Levi-Zrihen, who brought the album out to the media, said that there were few photos of Gilad, who was extremely camera shy.
But his friends were able to find a few shots of him on field trips and lounging in school. The family was very moved by the present and has kept it with them as they wait by the phone, said Levi-Zrihen.
IDF Chief Rabbi Yisrael Weiss, who visited the Shalit familiy late Wednesday afternoon, told the media stationed outside the home that he was impressed by the family's demeanor and resilience.
"This is a quiet family that believes in the nation and the IDF and is filled with hope and optimism," said Weiss.
In speaking with the family, he told them that the pain of their loss has touched everyone.
"There is a nation that stands behind you," he said to them.