Hundreds gather at Gaza border for Schalit's birthday

Likud MK Hotovely reportedly booed by crowd at rally; Sarkozy, Juppe write letters to Noam, Aviva Schalit to mark Gilad's 25th birthday.

August 28, 2011 18:58
3 minute read.
Captured soldier Gilad Schalit in video

Gilad Schalit in video 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters)

Hundreds of protesters gathered at the Erez crossing on the Israel-Gaza border Sunday to commemorate the 6th birthday kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit has been forced to have in captivity since he was taken by terrorists in 2006.

Earlier, activists marched from the Yad Mordecai intersection to the Erez crossing holding protest signs and waving flags.

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A number of Israeli musicians were set to perform at a makeshift stage constructed by the activists, including David D'or and Amir Benayoun.

Gilad Schalit's father, Noam, was scheduled to speak later in the evening, prior to releasing a number of doves as a gift to the kidnapped soldier on his 25th birthday.

Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely was repeatedly booed while speaking at the rally, Israel Radio reported.

Hotovely told the crowd that Schalit was a captive of Hamas and not a captive of the government of Israel. She stated that the way to bring about his release was by ensuring that the leadership of Hamas felt threatened.

Her speech was interrupted by jeers from the crowd and calls against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

The crowd rejected Hotovely's contention that she came to support the Schalit family, saying she was merely seeking publicity.

Also on Sunday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé sent letters to Noam and Aviva Shalit to mark the 25th birthday of their son.

In the letters, the French leaders said they would do everything in their capacity to free Schalit. Sarkozy's letter was addressed to Gilad and said, "Trust and be sure that I will do everything in my power to secure your release."

On Sunday morning, Schalit's parents were joined by dozens of supporters in a protest outside Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Office in Jerusalem on Sunday morning to mark the captured IDF soldier's 25th birthday.

Aviva, Gilad's mother, held a sign saying "Netanyahu, a birthday present for Gilad - his life back."

Gilad's father Noam, who was holding a sign saying "Netanyahu, you don't have a mandate to kill Gilad," said that it is hard for him to ask his son to stay strong after more than five years in captivity.

"We are fighting a daily battle but we are still no closer to the day that Gilad is released," Noam told Israel Radio.

Tzvi Schalit, Gilad's grandfather, blamed Netanyahu for not doing enough to bring about the release of his grandson. During an interview with Israel Radio on Sunday morning, Tzvi said that it is clear the public wants Gilad to be released but the government, and more specifically the prime minister, is ignoring those calls.

"Since Netanyahu has come into power, the situation has worsened," Tzvi said.

"We are working hard, but our demands are not being  answered. It is not true that they [the government] are doing everything they can," the kidnapped soldier's grandfather said.

Tzvi spoke about the day that Gilad was born and reminisced about the first time he saw him at the hospital in Nahariya. "He is very much missing in the family," Tzvi said. 

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