Shalit Family to Maintain Vigil Despite Disappointment Over Stalled Talks

The Shalit family will meet with supporters this morning to decide on their course of action following the apparent breakdown of negotiations between Israel and Hamas over the fate of Gilad Shalit, who was abducted from the Gaza border in 2006.

Reportedly, the protest tent which the Shalit family erected opposite the Prime Minister's Residence will remain for at least another four days at which time they will mark the 1,000th day of Gilad's captivity.

Last night, Gilad Shalit's father, Noam, reacted to yesterday's speech by the prime minister regarding their son's case.

"Instead of explaining why his efforts have failed, he should act energetically this time to achieve results," he said.

Hundreds of people continued to come to the protest tent yesterday to express their support for the family, but in contrast to previous days, the mood at the tent was somber.

The protesters expressed the feeling that matters in the case were returning to square one, in contrast with the hopeful mood on Monday.

One of the Shalit family supporters, Orna Shimoni, said, "there is the sense that the changing of the guard in the Israeli government is a matter of life and death for Gilad. The members of the Shalit family are really devastated."

Prior to yesterday's cabinet meeting, members of the Shalit family met with the chief negotiator in their son's case, Ofer Dekel, who explained the difficulties in clinching a deal. Following the meeting, Noam Shalit stated for the first time that in all probability his son would not return home prior to the change in government.

"Olmert seems to have failed in his role on this matter," he said. "This government probably won't succeed in returning Gilad."

Youth protest

Dozens of young people demonstrated outside the prime minister's office calling for Shalit's release. A short time before the cabinet meeting yesterday, Noam Shalit sent a letter to the prime minister with a final request that a deal for a prisoner exchange be wrapped up.

Members of the family stood vigil during the cabinet meeting at the entrance to the prime minister's office in an effort to influence the ministers to approve an exchange. The family and their supporters tried to stop the ministers' cars to give them a letter consisting of one word: "help," written in Gilad Shalit's handwriting.

Following the cabinet meeting, members of the Shalit family were invited to meet with the prime minister, a meeting which lasted an hour, after which Noam Shalit said that Olmert is not giving up and that the negotiations will continue.

Noam Shalit said that the emotions involved, disappointment and hope, are irrelevant.

"What is important at the moment is action and there is absolutely what to do," he said.