Thousands of people participated in a demonstration across the street from the home of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu marking Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit's fifth birthday in Hamas captivity.

In her address to the crowd, Shalit's mother Aviva commented on prime minister's wife Sara Netanyahu's recent public statements against the deportation of the children of migrant workers, in stark contrast to her silence on the issue of the kidnapped soldier.

"Gilad my beloved son, today is your birthday," said Aviva Shalit. "Once again I did not buy you a present this year, I didn't bake a cake, you won't be able to blow out the candles. I miss you more every day. I will make one wish in your name: that your candle not be extinguished, that you remain healthy in your body and soul. Sorry for not freeing you yet."

In her speech, Shalit addressed Mrs. Netanyahu: "Your name appeared in the headlines due to your concern for the children of the migrant workers. I am obliged to remind you of one child who is already a young man. He calls out to you from Gaza. Do not ignore him."

Shalit ended her address by proclaiming that she will not return to her home in Mitzpeh Hila without Gilad. "We will celebrate your next birthday at home," she concluded.

In response, Sara Netanyahu said that she sympathizes with Shalit's mother and with the rest of his family. "My heart goes out to them, and to Gilad," she said, and added that she "knows that my husband, the prime minister, is making great efforts to bring Gilad home healthy and whole as soon as possible."

The prime minister's office stated that Netanyahu plans to ask the Shalit family for a meeting after he returns from peace talks in Washington.

Shalit was captured by Gaza militants in a cross-border raid in June 2006, and has been held captive by Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, ever since. Hamas has demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails in exchange for the soldier's release.

The Shalit family has spent the last six weeks living in a protest tent across from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's home in Jerusalem. They have called on the public to join them in demanding that the Prime Minister take action to secure the freedom of Gilad Shalit.