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Hamas will pass Gilad Shalit's family a letter from the kidnapped soldier, in response to the letter they sent their son a few months ago, Gaza Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh promised former Irish president Mary Robinson, while she was visiting the Gaza Strip.

Robinson, who used to be the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, told Haaretz that when she spoke to Haniyeh, she expressed her support for releasing Palestinian prisoners but also told him the time had come to release Shalit.

Robinson currently chairs the Council of Women World Leaders and is a member of The Elders, a group put together by Sir Richard Branson that includes retired Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and retired UN secretary general Kofi Annan. The group's goals include promoting Middle East peace.

During her visit to the region, Robinson also met with Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal and expressed interest in the town's children.

Robinson expressed veiled criticism of former British prime minister Tony Blair, who is now the Quartet envoy to the territories. She said that during her visit to Gaza, she was told that his presence could not be felt there at all, that he had never visited there and that he is not doing enough to lift obstacles to urgent humanitarian aid.

She also criticized the leaders of Hamas and Fatah, saying that the civilian population is paying for their political disagreements.

Robinson met with the head of the Palestinian negotiating team, Ahmed Qureia, and told him, as she had told Haniyeh, "Both parties are arguing cynically that they are interested in a cease-fire, but because of the rivalry between them, they are fighting on the backs of the people."

She also called on Israel and the international community to change their policies toward Hamas. She said Northern Ireland teaches that without the participation of all parties to the conflict, the conflict cannot be ended.