Family members of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit chained themselves together outside the prime minister's residence on Saturday, marking the fifth anniversary of their son and brother's abduction.
The family members sat chained-up on the curb outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, while dozens of activists blocked the road that leads to the house.
As he sat chained with family members, Gilad's father Noam Shalit said, "Our family has been captive for five years; half a decade that Gilad has spent in Gaza in terrible loneliness without contact with the outside world. The time has come for the Israeli government, which sent him on a mission, to bring him home."
"Gilad's situation is much worse than ours," Yoel Shalit, Gilad's brother, added. "We are trying to hear his voice."
Asked whether he thought the protest would help influence Netanyahu, Noam Shalit said, "We will make sure that this helps. That's why we are here, in order to free Gilad. If necessary, we will escalate our efforts."
France's ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot on Saturday presented Shalit's parents with a letter in which French President Nicolas Sarkozy directly addressed to the captive soldier.
"Since your kidnapping, I have taken it upon myself to do everything to return you to your family," Sarkozy wrote. "I repeated this commitment when I met with your father at the Elysee Palace on June 10 and I repeat it now: France will not abandon you to your fate and will continue to act, along with other bodies, including those in the Arab world, so that this unjustified suffering comes to an end."
Earlier on Saturday, approximately 350 people gathered to mark five years since Shalit was abducted by Hamas and taken to the Gaza Strip. The event was held at an armored corps monument in the Eshkol region of the western Negev. The protesters called on the government to accept Hamas' terms for a prisoner swap.
Shalit's family did not attend the rally, but Gilad's grandfather, Zvi Shalit, sent a letter that was read out loud. "The people involved talk to us from time to time, caress our heads, but my dear grandchild Gilad is still rotting away in the Hamas cellars having done nothing wrong, like a common criminal," he wrote.
Zvi Shalit went on to write that Defense Minister Ehud Barak told him he clearly supports the deal proposed by Hamas, "but that (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu is opposed and cannot be persuaded otherwise." He also criticized Netanyahu and said his inaction does more damage to the nation's morale, especially young men about to enlist in the IDF, than the damage done by releasing prisoners. "I fear Netanyahu is waiting to hear, God forbid, that Gilad did not survive the conditions he was kept in, so he could pay a lesser price for his return," he wrote.
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