Shalit Activists Plead: Don't Lift Blockade on Gaza Strip

The government should not lift the blockade of Gaza unless it agrees to a prisoner swap with Hamas, because easing the restrictions could diminish the prospects of Gilad Shalit's release, the head of the Campaign to Free Gilad Shalit said yesterday.

"It appears that in the course of finding a solution to the [Gaza flotilla] crisis, the Israeli government, the prime minister and defense minister are forgetting that the siege on Gaza is also part of the leverage of pressure on Hamas," said Shimshon Liebman, who heads the group advocating the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit.

"If the government of Israel is not capable of standing up to international pressures, it should pay the price being demanded and bring Gilad back," he said, referring to the release of Palestinian prisoners that a deal with Hamas would require.

The Campaign to Free Gilad Shalit will be treating Israel's leaders, not Hamas, as the sole party responsible for securing Shalit's release, the group said ahead of the fourth anniversary of his June 26 abduction by Palestinian militants.

"We see the prime minister and defense minister as directly responsible for Gilad's return," said a leading activist in the organization.