Hamas refuses to deliver Schalit gift

Group fears Israel will plant explosives in package; captive's parents pessimistic after speaking to PM.

Noam Schalit 248.88 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Noam Schalit 248.88 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Hamas is refusing to deliver a Rosh Hashana gift package sent by Gilad Schalit's family and their neighbors to the captured soldier, said a senior official from the group to Iranian television Tuesday. In an interview with Al-Aalam, Muhammed Al-Katari, a senior official from Hamas's Prisoners Affairs Ministry, said, "Israel's technological advantage allows it to plant electronics and explosives in the package to rid itself of Schalit and his captors." He warned Palestinian officials not to approach the package. As part of their ongoing efforts to secure Gilad's release and to try and send him a ray of comfort in the interim, the gift package was sent Monday on a journey throughout the country. Afterward the package was to pass the Karni Crossing into Gaza. On Thursday morning, the families of jailed Hamas members were to give the Campaign to Free Gilad Schalit over 100 packages for their loved ones in Israeli jails. The Schalit campaign, in turn, was to give Hamas the package for Schalit. Once the campaign had been satisfied that Gilad had received the package, they would have ensured that the Hamas prisoners received the gifts from their families. Meanwhile, Noam and Aviva Schalit did not receive sweet tidings regarding their captive son when they spoke with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Tuesday. The family requested the Jerusalem meeting, which took place just two days after Netanyahu returned from meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in advance of the Rosh Hashana holiday. Egypt is a third party negotiator in the indirect talks between Israel and Hamas for the release of Gilad, who has been held in Gaza since he was kidnapped in June 2006. Noam did not want to discuss details of the meeting in which Gilad's grandfather, Tzvi, was present. Noam told reporters he understood that there were continued efforts to bring his son home, but they had not produced results. Noam added that he was no more optimistic at the end of the meeting than he had been when he walked in. "Work is being done and people should be given the breathing space to exhaust those efforts," he said. "We passed onto [Netanyahu] our impatience with the fact that it is the eve of Rosh Hashana and for the fourth year, Gilad is still in captivity," said Noam. He added that, "there is no light at the end of the tunnel." The Schalit campaign said that Netanyahu reiterated his commitment to bringing Gilad home, but that no news had come out of the meeting. On Wednesday afternoon, the campaign plans to hold a joint demonstration between Kibbutz Nahal Oz and the Karni Crossing in conjunction with a Gaza rally by families of Hamas prisoners held in Israeli jails. In exchange for Gilad, Hamas is demanding the release of at least 450 prisoners, including those responsible for murdering Israelis.