Israelis Mark Gilad Shalit's Sixth Birthday in Captivity With Protests

Family of abducted IDF soldier demonstrate outside Netanyahu's office, holding a sign that read, 'Netanyahu - a birthday present for Gilad - his life back.'

Dozens of Israelis took part in a demonstration outside the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, to mark the birthday of Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, who is being held captive by Hamas for the past five years.

Gilad Shalit, who was captured on June 25, 2006 during a cross-border raid by militants from the Gaza Strip, turned 25 on Sunday. Negotiations for his release as part of prisoner swap between Israel and the Palestinian movement have dragged on.

Tomer Appelbaum

The demonstrators chanted "save Gilad" and carried large signs that read: "Netanyahu - you have no mandate to kill a soldier" as cabinet ministers arrived for their weekly meeting at Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem.

Shalit's mother, Aviva, held up a sign proclaiming "Netanyahu - a birthday present for Gilad - his life back."

Activists campaigning for the soldiers release also plan to demonstrate at the spot opposite the Gaza Strip where he was snatched, and hold a march later Sunday.

Hamas is demanding that Israel free 1,000 Palestinians held in its jails in return for Shalit.
Negotiations however are floundering over the release of several older Palestinian militants serving long sentences, who Israel says are behind some of the worst attacks carried out against it.

Israel also refuses to allow other prisoners considered still dangerous to be released to their West Bank homes, from where they could have easy access to Israeli population centers.
Netanyahu said in June that Israel had accepted a German-mediated proposal for a prisoner swap with Hamas, but received no reply from the organization. Days later, Hamas said the two sides had reached a "joint understanding" but that Netanyahu had backed out.

The movement also said it would no longer work with the German official trying to mediate a deal since he was "not a fair negotiator" and had "adopted Netanyahu's stance."

Since Shalit's capture, the only signs of life have been three letters, an audio tape released a year after he was taken, and a brief video broadcast on October 2, 2009.