Noam and Aviva Shalit
Noam and Aviva Shalit. Photo by David Bachar
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Gilad Shalit's family convened a press conference in Tel Aviv yesterday to announce it would be stepping up the campaign to secure the captive soldier's release.

Family members said a protest march would embark June 27 from their home in the Galilee community of Mitzpeh Hila and reach the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on July 8. There demonstrators plan to stage a sit-in until Shalit is released from Hamas captivity in Gaza.

Next Friday marks four years since the soldier's abduction.

"We aren't willing to accept the tired statement that our efforts are undermining Gilad's release. Even when we kept a low profile, nothing changed," Shalit's father Noam said yesterday.

"For four years we've been told that meeting Hamas' demands will encourage further abductions. For four years we have been presented with worst-case scenarios and strategic warnings about freeing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners," Noam Shalit said. "Are the state and its security services unable to deal with releasing hundreds of terrorists? High-level security officials have said those warnings are exaggerated."

Shalit vowed to not wait another year for his son's release.

"It has been four years that two prime ministers, two defense ministers and two chiefs of staff have failed. There's no other way to describe it," he said. "We're waging this campaign to save our boy, and we're calling on the public to come out in droves to express their support. Under current circumstances, it's comfortable for decision makers that Gilad remain locked in a Hamas basement while they keep insisting they're doing everything for his sake. But in effect they're not doing anything. Every [prime minister] hopes his successor does something, but it's not happening during the current administration."

Shalit said there is no alternative to a prisoner swap.

"History proves that if Gilad is never returned, it still won't prevent the release of hundreds of terrorists sooner or later, during this administration or another, in this deal or another - so why not now, when we can still save Gilad?" he asked.

"Israel is currently considering easing conditions in Gaza. That's the last bargaining chip we have for applying pressure on Hamas, and now Israel is folding, or being forced to fold, and give up the only card in our hands. There is no alternative to completing a prisoner exchange," he added.

Shimshon Libman, the leader of the advocacy group lobbying for the soldier's release, told reporters at the press conference, "Failure to bring back Gilad will be a deep wound that never heals. The family is rolling up its sleeves after putting too much trust in decision makers, and now understands there is no alternative. The price must be paid and Gilad must be brought home."