Noam Shalit visits Beit Hanun victims

Father of kidnapped soldier shares pain with Palestinian family; both call to "stop the bloodshed."

noam shalit, yoav appel  (photo credit: Yoav Appel [file])
noam shalit, yoav appel
(photo credit: Yoav Appel [file])
Two fathers on opposite sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, who each long to hear their son's voice, met on Thursday when Noam Shalit went to Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital to visit Palestinians wounded when the IDF accidentally shelled civilians in Beit Hanun on November 8. Since that day, Palestinian father Usama Ahmd Atamna has waited for his 12-year-old son Saed to wake up from a coma. The shell which ripped through their family's home wounded Saed in the head and killed 19 people, of which 17 were from the Atamna family. Shalit, in turn, has not heard his son Gilad's voice since the 20-year-old was kidnapped on the Gaza border by Hamas five months ago. On Thursday the two fathers privately shared their sorrow and pain and then spoke to the media about the visit. Shalit said it was time to end the violence on both sides. He urged Palestinian and Israeli leaders to talk with each other to secure his son's release and to bring peace. "We are all victims of the same madness, the same incessant wars and nonsensical violence," Shalit said. The Beit Hanun victims were ordinary, apolitical people whose main concern was simply supporting their family, said Shalit. "It is innocent people who always pay the price in needless wars," said Shalit. The Atamna family "paid a high price" as did the Slutsker family, he added. Fatima Slutsker, 57, was killed in Sderot on Wednesday by a Palestinian-launched rocket. Shalit said he was disappointed by government efforts so far to secure Gilad's release, but he did not elaborate. The Israeli government "could do more," he said simply. "The time has come to bring him [Gilad] home." But the problem is also on the other side, he said. The Palestinian government and their allies in Damascus, he said, could also do more to stop the violence and secure his son's release. "They are not in a hurry to end this chapter," he said. Shalit added that the Palestinian leaders did not care that their own people had been harmed as a result. Both he and members of the Atamna family called for his son's release and for both sides to talk with each other. "Israel has to speak with someone on the other side. It doesn't matter whom. It could be a new government. There needs to be someone to talk with," said Shalit. Atamna said he was pleased that Shalit had visited the family, adding that few high-profile Israelis had come to see them following the shelling. Atamna's mother, wife and sister were all killed in the attack. Four of his six children were wounded. Two of them are in Ichilov and the other two are in a Gaza hospital. Like Shalit, Atamna called on leaders from both sides to "sit and talk and stop the bloodshed."