Gilad Schalit

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4th anniversary of Schalit abduction by Tovah Lazaroff and Jonny Paul (Jerusalem Post)

Noam Schalit pleads for  “small humane step” – the release of  his son.

From Jerusalem, to Rome, to New York,  supporters of captive  soldier  Gilad Schalit on Thursday cried out for his release as they marked the eve of the fourth anniversary of  his  kidnapping.

In Rome, the lights of the Colosseum were turned off.  So too,  the lights around the Old City walls in Jerusalem.  Lighting up the darkness at the walls was a sign showing the number of days, 1,460, that Schalit had been held by Hamas in Gaza, along with the line, “This is the time I have spent in captivity.”

In New York, a flotilla of ships, called “The True Freedom Flotilla,”  sailed from Pier 40 around the Statue of Liberty and past the buildings of the United Nations.

Addressing a crowd in Rome,  Gilad’s father, Noam,  asked the international community not to forget his son.

As I stand here tonight, in the capital of  Italy, Rome, which is one of the central, ancient and important cities in Europe and the civilized world,  I call on the international community and the European one in particular not to forget Gilad,”  said Noam.

He noted that Gilad had been made an  honorary citizen of Rome and was a European citizen,   since he had dual French-Israeli citizenship.

I’m asking that the same international community, and the European one in particular, which pressured Israel to take humanitarian steps on behalf of the people of Gaza, would use all means available to them to pressure Hamas to take one small humanitarian step on behalf of one of its own citizens, on behalf of  Gilad,” said Noam.

He added that his son’s release would bring freedom to hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who would be let out of Israeli jails as part of a swap.

Those who ask that their rights be respected, just also respect the rights of others,” said Noam. “For four long years, our son Gilad, a young man of flesh and blood, who is now 23, has called out to us, a silent cry from the dark cellars of Hamas, a silent but resonant cry. He asks for only one thing: ‘Restore my freedom which was stolen from me four years ago,’” said Noam.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague issued a statement to commemorate the fourth anniversary of Schalit’s abduction and called for his “immediate and unconditional” release.

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the abduction of Israeli soldier, Staff- Sgt. Gilad Schalit,” Hague said. “My thoughts are with Gilad’s parents today. I sincerely hope that they will soon be able to welcome their son home.”

Hague reiterated the British position, that Schalit’s release must be immediate and unconditional and that Hamas must allow the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to him.

The UK has long called for Gilad Schalit’s immediate and unconditional release and we reiterate that call today. It is also vital that Hamas allows the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Gilad immediately and ensure that he is in good health. His continued captivity without any ICRC access and with only very occasional, minimal contact with his family is utterly unacceptable.

The foreign minister called on Hamas “to renounce violence and take immediate and concrete steps towards the Quartet principles and to free Gilad Schalit without delay.

In New York, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev said, “For more than four years, the Hamas terrorist regime has denied Gilad Schalit’s most basic rights, as well as any visit from international organizations. This is illegal and morally appalling. It is shameful that so many who claim to vigorously support human rights are totally silent in the face of this injustice.”

Consul-General Asaf  Shariv added, “It has been four yeas too long.  Gilad Schalit has been held in captivity and deprived of humanitarian aid.  He is being held as a prisoner with disregard to international law. Sadly, it is all too easy to see him as a symbol of yet another terrorist act. We know that Gilad is more than just that. Gilad is a son, a brother, and a friend. He is a young man who deserves to see the light of day, his parents and his country.

The package of humanitarian aid that we attempt to deliver to Gilad, through the International Red Cross, is the very least he deserves.  If delivered, this warranted act will be more than Gilad has seen since 2006.

On Sunday, Gilad’s parents and their supporters plan to embark on an 11-day trek to Jerusalem from their home in the upper Galilee.

* * *

Shalit family on anniversary of abduction: We’re not going back without him by Jack Khoury (Ha’aretz)

Friday marks four years since Gilad Shalit was abducted by Hamas;  on Sunday, the Shalit family will begin a march from their home in Mitzpeh Hila to the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem.
Noam and Aviva Shalit, parents of the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, are gathering strength for their most difficult and perhaps ultimate campaign. On Sunday the family will begin a march to Jerusalem – embarking on a quest that will end only with Gilad’s return, they say.
Friday marks four years since Shalit has been held in Hamas captivity.
This time it’s different,” says Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father. “We’ve said we would not allow another year to pass without Gilad, and that is what we intend to do this time. We won’t go home without Gilad.
It is not clear how long the Shalit family and the activists campaigning for his release will have to camp in protest opposite the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem until he decides to bring Gilad home. It is clear that the battle will be hard and long, and that public opinion will play a key role in the outcome.
Four years ago Friday the Shalit family received the first official word from the Israel Defense Forces: “Your son is missing and believed to be held in the Gaza Strip.” Four years of anguish and dread have passed, with very few moments of hope or optimism. Two wars have erupted since then – one in the north and the other in Gaza- as the family continues to wait, day after day and week after week.
Not much has changed in Mitzpeh Hila, where the Shalit family lives. But this weekend, as they prepare for the march, a feeling of potential change prevails. The anticipation in the air is enhanced by the overwhelming media presence.
All of the bread-and-breakfasts in the area are at capacity – filled mainly by journalists. Everyone wants to cover the family as they set out on their march, which thousands are expected to join along the way.
Tie a yellow ribbon
On Thursday morning several children, mostly girls, gathered in Mitzpeh Hila where they began tying yellow ribbons in every possible corner, on fences and bushes near the Shalit house and on the entrance gate.
Most Israelis will be wearing a yellow ribbon over the next few days,” says one campaign activist.  Shahar Cohen and Shahar Siton, two 13-year-old girls from Mitzpeh Hila sit at the entrance to the community’s administrative offices, cutting yellow ribbons. They were nine years old when Gilad Shalit was abducted and did not really understand what was going on. Now things are different. They realize the importance of joining the struggle to bring him home. “This will be the last time we cut ribbons,” one of them says.
When asked why, they answer, “Because this time he’s coming back and we won’t need to cut any more ribbons.
Ariel Vaknin and Nitzan Romano, both 17, created posters for the march declaring “Gilad, we’re waiting for you at home.”
The whole country is mobilizing for Gilad,” says Vaknin. “For teenagers his abduction has a different meaning. How can a state abandon a soldier it sent on a mission? As long as Gilad isn’t coming back, more and more people will dodge the draft. We need to restore young peoples’ belief in the state.”
Shimshon Liebman, who heads the campaign for Shalit’s release, says the activists are encouraged by the public support and display of solidarity.
He admits that for the past four years the family and activists had been naive. Perhaps this quest too is naive, he says. But he is still sure of one thing: “This time the family is making a turnabout, after having lost its confidence in the government it had trusted all those years. Now it’s demanding that the prime minister and defense minister pay the price [for the deal to free Gilad Shalit], after all the levers and options have been exhausted,” he says.
The prime minister cannot ignore the masses marching for Gilad, or sitting with the family in the protest tent. He will not be able to return to his agenda without bringing Gilad home after four years,” Liebman says.
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