JERUSALEM — Captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit will soon be transferred to Egypt as part of a larger prisoner swap, according to European diplomatic sources.
The sources were quoted in the Israeli media Thursday as saying that Shalit would be transferred as a down payment in a prisoner exchange among Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian factions, and the opening of crossings between Israel and Gaza. The deal also would put Gaza under the control of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Ha’aretz reported.
The news came as family, friends and supporters marked Shalit’s third anniversary in captivity. Shalit was captured in a cross-border raid by Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip. Two other Israeli soldiers were killed in the attack.
Shalit’s father, Noam, asked all Israelis to remember his son.
“My wish, today, on the 25th of June, 2009, from every person in the state, man and woman, from children to the elderly, is to close your eyes for three minutes,” he told Army Radio Thursday. “For just three minutes close your eyes and wait until those minutes pass, and during that time, try to think about what my son, Gilad, has gone through, a young man who is waiting with bated breath — not just three minutes, and not just three hours, and not even just three days, but is waiting in darkness and despair, mentally and physically tortured, to regain his freedom which was taken from him three years ago.”
Shalit’s supporters held a demonstration Thursday outside the office of Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv.
Meanwhile, the Consulate General of Israel in New York released a YouTube video to draw attention to Shalit’s plight. The project features Shalit’s own story, “When the Shark and the Fish First Met,” about two sea animals that were raised to hate and fear one another but then realized that everyone would be happier by making peace.
Shalit wrote the story when he was in fifth grade. Last year the story was illustrated and turned into a book.
The video shows people from around the world reading Shalit’s story in their native languages, including Italian, German, French and Spanish, with English subtitles.
Also Thursday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called for Shalit’s immediate, unconditional release.
Noting the anniversary, he said that “Both British ministers and the British ambassador in Israel have had repeated contact with Gilad’s family and emphasized our support for Gilad’s immediate release. Later, he said, “We share the Shalit family’s dismay at Hamas’s refusal to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross access to Gilad.”
Miliband also voiced his support for the people of Gaza, saying, “Do not forget the humanitarian plight of ordinary Gazans. I repeat the UK’s calls on Israel to reduce further the current restrictions on the Gaza crossings, to allow in aid, reconstruction materials, and trade goods, and to permit the legitimate flow of people through the crossings. It is imperative to start a new cycle of hope in Gaza, so that all turn their back on violence and focus on building a safe and secure future.”