Aviva and Noam Shalit Emil Salman August 25, 2010
Aviva and Noam Shalit in a protest tent in Jerusalem on the eve of Gilad's 24th birthday Photo by Emil Salman
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Gilad Shalit's family, friends and supporters marked the 24-year-old soldier's fifth birthday in Hamas captivity on Saturday in a rally at a protest tent in Jerusalem.

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 Israel Defense Forces soldier's release.

The British Foreign Office issued a statement on Saturday, corresponding to Shalit's birthday, saying that “the thoughts of many in Britain are with Gilad Shalit and his family as he spends his 24th birthday in captivity."

"His detention is unjustifiable and unacceptable. The British Government demands his immediate and unconditional release," the statement continued.

Aviva Shalit, Gilad's mother, asked the wives of MKs and ministers to take part in Saturday's rally, but by the end of the week had received no reply.

"This will mark 1,525 days and long difficult nights in which I haven't seen my son," Aviva wrote in the invitation to the wives. "Not to see, not to hug, not to hear, not to smell – to live in a big painful emptiness in our home in Mitzpe Hila, without holidays or special days. I ask you humbly, as a mother, sister, wife, human being – help me bring my son home."

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.