Gilad Shalit Campaigners Plan New Protests to Break Talks Deadlock

Activists announce wave of demonstrations after Hamas declares 'deep freeze' on negotiations to free captured soldier.

Campaigners to free captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit vowed on Friday to intensify pressure on the government amid fears that talks with Hamas had collapsed.

Protesters gathered outside the prime minister's residence in the first of a wave of demonstrations planned for the coming days.

Activists will on Tuesday picket the Hadarim prison near Netanya and try to speak with visiting mothers of Palestinian inmates, said Yoel Marshak, a representative of the kibbutz movement and one of the campaign's organizers.

"We want to kick-start the process and avert a situation in which talks freeze and we lose Gilad," Marshak said.

The following Friday protesters will congregate at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's private home in Caesarea, he said.

Shalit's family will not take part in next week's events but are said to have given their approval.

The latest push to free Shalit comes after Mahmoud al-Zahar, a Hamas leader in Gaza, said this week that talks to free the 23-year-old soldier were in a "deep freeze" - although a German intermediary is still expected to arrive in Jerusalem in the next few days to deliver Hamas's answer to Israel's latest proposal.

Zahar was reacting to the assassination of a senior Hamas man in Dubai, for which the organization holds Israel responsible.

Tensions increased further on Wednesday when Israel launched air strikes in retaliation to rockets fired from within the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip.

Meanwhile, both sides continue to blame each other for failing to broker a prisoner swap to release Shalit after over three years in captivity.

"The main cause (of the failure) is that after the interference of the political element, after the interference of Netanyahu personally, there was a big regression and retraction," Zahar told BBC World News' Hardtalk program on Tuesday.

"For this reason, everything now is stopped," Zahar said.

In response to the report, the Shalit family said:

"Before Hamas leaders declare the negotiations frozen, they should remember that in addition to holding Gilad hostage without any basic human rights, they have also been holding thousands of Palestinian residents of Gaza under an intolerable humanitarian situation for almost four years."