Sarkozy pledges to captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit: France will not abandon you
On fifth anniversary of Shalit kidnapping, French president writes letter addressed directly to captured IDF soldier; calls on Hamas to release Shalit.
France's ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot met on Saturday afternoon with the parents of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and presented them with a letter in which French President Nicolas Sarkozy directly addressed Shalit.
"Since your kidnapping, I have taken it on 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."
Shalit holds dual Israel and French citizenship.
In the letter, Sarkozy called on Hamas to release Shalit.
"It is time that those responsible for your detention make a decision and end your intolerable and outrageous imprisonment," Sarkozy wrote.
Sarkozy called Shalit's detainment a violation of international law.
"I cannot accept that you are forbidden from simple communication with your relatives and from receiving messages from them in return, as if a simple exchange of messages would be a sign of weakness on the part of those who hold you," Sarkozy wrote. "I urge those who are imprisoning you to immediately permit the Red Cross to meet you and more than that to return you to freedom."
Approximately 350 people gathered on Saturday to mark five years since Shalit was abducted by Hamas and taken to Gaza. 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.
Also on Saturday, Hamas' Izedin al-Qassam armed wing said that Shalit would not be freed before the release of Palestinian prisoners.
Hamas gave reporters a videotape showing two Israeli soldiers - Shalit and airman Ron Arad, who has been missing in Lebanon for two decades.
"We swear that he (Shalit) won't see the light before our prisoners do," read a sentence written in Arabic in the video.
Hamas is demanding that Israel free 1,000 Palestinians held in its jails in return for releasing Shalit.
In Gaza, dozens of relatives of prisoners in Israeli jails on Saturday called on Shalit's captors not to change their demands for his release.