Netanyahu: Shalit animation shows true nature of Hamas
Animated short released by Hamas compares captive IDF soldier to missing IAF airman Ron Arad.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit out at the militant Palestinian organization Hamas on Sunday, after the group released an animted short film depicting abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been captive by Hamas in Gaza for nearly four years, returning to Israel in a coffin.
The video, said Netanyahu was a reflection of "the true character of Hamas."
"It is yet another despicable action aimed to help the Hamas leadership avoid making a decision regarding our offer for a prisoner swap deal which it has not responded to for many months," Netanyahu added.
"This offer," Netanyahu said, "which was formulated between Israel and the Hamas with the German mediator, will enable a healthy and whole Gilad Shalit to return home to his family."
The three-minute animation, shown on the website of Hamas' military wing, warns that Shalit could face the same fate as Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad, whose whereabouts have been unknown since he bailed out of his plane over Lebanon in 1986.
The voice-over in the clip is that of Gilad Shalit, as heard in a video released by his captors last September.
In the cartoon, the soldier's father Noam Shalit is seen walking aimlessly, before picking up a newspaper with a front-page advertisement offering a reward of $50 million for information on his son.
The advertisement is a direct reference to Israel's offer of a $10 million reward for information about Arad.
Shalit was abducted on June 25, 2006 in a cross-border raid launched from the Gaza Strip by Palestinian militants. Hamas is demanding that Israel free 1,000 prisoners in exchange for him, but negotiations, held via a German mediator, have so far brought no result.
Hamas said it wanted to reach "the wide Israeli public" and end the months-long stalemate in German and Egyptian mediated talks on a prisoner swap.
"Our message is clear, and that is that Shalit's case must end with the release of our prisoners. Otherwise, he may end up like the missing Ron Arad," a Hamas source said, referring to an Israeli airman widely presumed to have died in captivity after he bailed out over Lebanon in 1986 and was seized by guerrillas.
"If the Israelis want Shalit to get released safe and sound, their government should pay the price by releasing Palestinian prisoners," Hamas declared.
"If the Israeli government rejects the Palestinian resistance demands, Israel will be obliged to release the Palestinian prisoners sooner or later with heavier prices...the prisoners will be released anyway," Hamas said.
Gilad's father Noam responded to the tape shortly after it was issued, saying, "It is unfortunate that Hamas leaders choose, time and again, to use tactics of psychological warfare against the Shalit family and the Israeli public instead of referring to and approving a deal for the exchange of Palestinian prisoners that was handed to them by the German mediator and has been lying on their desk, unanswered, for four months."
Noam Shalit also referred to the letter he recently sent to Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal.
"As we stressed in the letter...the Hamas leaders express their political and personal interests over the interests of the Palestinian people by postponing the release of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, and the release of the entire population in the Gaza Strip from the continuous political and economic suffocation which they have been held in for years as a direct result of holding our son Gilad captive for over four years.
"The Hamas leaders would do well if they stopped producing films and installations, and took care of the real interests of the Palestinian prisoners and the simple Gaza residents, who have been held hostage by their own leaders for a long time," he added.
The cartoon displayed Sunday also warned that Hamas would kidnap more Israeli soldiers in order to bargain for the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.