Ashkenazi's Schalit remark downplayed

Army: Comment referred to soldier's location nothing new; Dichter: Israel not rushing into rescue op.

ashkenazi salutes 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
ashkenazi salutes 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
The IDF Spokesperson's Office on Monday downplayed comments made earlier by IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi that Israel knows the location of captured IDF soldier St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit and who is holding him. The army said there was nothing new in Ashkenazi's statement and that he merely meant that Israel knew the soldier was being held in Gaza by Hamas. Speaking to new Armored Corps recruits at the IDF's Tel Hashomer base, Ashkenazi had said, "We know that Gilad is alive, where he is being held and by whom, and I hope we can promptly bring the episode to an end." "I believe it is extremely important for soldiers to know that if something happens to them, there is someone who will make every effort bring them back," he added. In response to a remark by one of the recruits that the Schalit issue was "frightening," Ashekenazi said, "There is no doubt that we need to bring him back and make every effort to do so. I can't say I'm happy, but we completed the mission in the North and returned Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. Unfortunately, they weren't alive, but we brought them back for Jewish burial. I don't want to go into details, but great efforts are being made on all levels on the Gilad Schalit issue." Public Security Minister Avi Dichter also said there was nothing new in Ashkenazi's words about Schalit's whereabouts. Speaking to Israel Radio, Dichter said that Israel "was not rushing in" to carry out a rescue operation because past operations of this nature had been "difficult." "However, we are using the best of our abilities to bring him home," he stressed. On Sunday, the cabinet reconstituted a committee that will look at the possibility of allowing more flexibility regarding which prisoners to release in exchange for Schalit, government sources said. The panel will be headed by Vice Premier Haim Ramon, and will include Dichter, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and Minister-without-Portfolio Ami Ayalon. The committee will take another look at the definition of prisoners with "blood on their hands" who are not to be released, according to the sources. With Egyptian-mediated negotiations with Hamas for the release of Schalit reportedly derailed over the names on a list of 450 security prisoners Hamas is demanding in return for the soldier, Israel has mulled being more flexible with the definition of "blood on their hands," including taking off the list terrorists who organized and dispatched others to carry out attacks that failed. Israel has reportedly only agreed to 70 of the names on the list. Herb Keinon contributed to this report