Noam Schalit sends Zahar condolences

Gilad's father sends letter to Hamas leader whose son was killed in clashes with the IDF on Tuesday.

Gilad Noam Schalit 298.8 (photo credit: AP [file])
Gilad Noam Schalit 298.8
(photo credit: AP [file])
Noam Schalit, the father of captured IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit, said Thursday that he sent a letter of condolence to Gaza Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar after his son was killed in clashes with the IDF Tuesday. "It was a personal letter of condolences," Schalit told The Associated Press on Thursday. He said he did not appeal to Zahar to help free his son, but declined to disclose the text of the letter. Zahar confirmed to Yediot Ahronot that he had received the letter from Schalit. Zahar's 24-year-old son Hussam, a Hamas operative, was one of 19 Palestinians killed Tuesday in an IDF operation against Gaza rocket squads. Scenes of Zahar weeping as he kissed his dead son's forehead were shown on Israeli TV Tuesday. "Our hearts break when our sons are killed but we don't have any other choice," Zahar told Yediot. "It hurts but we have a homeland and holy sites that are more important than them." Zahar's eldest son, Khaled, was also killed by the IDF in a failed assassination attempt on the Hamas leader in 2003. Ayman Taha, a Hamas spokesman, suggested Thursday that Schalit had not been maltreated by his captors. "Islam instructs us to treat war prisoners well, to keep them safe and not to harm them," Taha said. But he cautioned that the Israeli operations in Gaza could drag Schalit's captivity out for years. Hamas's exiled leader, Khaled Mashaal, said from Damascus on Wednesday that the military action in Gaza Tuesday would hurt the chances of Hamas releasing Schalit. Defense officials also said they thought the high Palestinian death toll and the killing of Zahar's son dealt a serious blow to efforts to work out a deal for Schalit's freedom in exchange for Palestinian prisoners Israel holds.