Hamas: Only a prisoner swap can release Shalit

[ 25/06/2011 – 06:14 PM ]

DAMASCUS, (PIC)–  Hamas has reiterated that captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit would only be released in a prisoner exchange deal, holding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responsible for failures in the swap.

The statement comes as some 350 Israelis rally in southern 1948 occupied Palestine to mark five years since Shalit’s capture and as Netanyahu threatens to toughen conditions of Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons.

In the fresh statement released Saturday, Hamas called on rights organizations to urgently mobilize to protect the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody and to pressure the occupying government to release them immediately.

“We in Hamas strongly condemn what our heroic captives have been subjected to… in the Israeli prisons, where more than 7,000 prisoners are being held, including women, children, and the elderly – those who have been abducted as civilians. Most of them suffer chronic diseases, and [the Israeli occupier] does not provide them the necessary treatment and care. They continue to deprive them of the most basic human rights ensured by international norms and laws.”

The movement, which governs the Gaza Strip, also condemned the world’s silence and bias in “double-standard” talks of releasing Shalit, who was captured while on the battlefield.

Also marking Shalit’s fifth year in captivity in the Gaza Strip, Hamas’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, has released a short video clip on its official website portraying the suffering of the Palestinian prisoners. The video is titled: “We swear he (Shalit) will not see light before our prisoners”. The commentator says: “Is one soldier not enough to end the matter.”

Gaza media expert Iyyad al-Qara has praised the short production saying it successfully conveys a number of messages firstly that Shalit would never be released unless in an exchange deal. The most prominent is that all of Israel’s attempts – whether through military force or intelligence – to have Shalit released outside of a swap with Palestinian prisoners have failed, he added in a statement to the PIC.

Gaza resistance forces apart from Hamas have also proven active in securing the release of Palestinians still held in Israeli custody. The spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees Abu Mujahid said Saturday that the resistance forces have a clear strategy to see the prisoners’ freedom, saying there would be persistent attempts to capture Israeli soldiers until all of the prisoners are released.

Commenting on Netanyahu’s recent announcement for tightening conditions inside the prisons, Abu Mujahid said: “The arbitrary measures adopted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against our prisoners will only increase our insistence and firmness in our demands, and they will not succeed in undermining the resolve of our heroic prisoners, whose right to freedom we will take back in spite of the Israeli occupier.”

None of the Shalits family attended the protests held near the Gaza border in the south, but a letter from Shalit’s grandfather Zvi Shalit was read aloud during the ceremony. In it he held Netanyahu responsible for the continued delay in the swap deal. “I fear Netanyahu is waiting to hear that Gilad did not survive the conditions he was kept in, so he could pay a lesser price for his return,” he wrote. The protesters there called on the Israeli government to meet Hamas’s demands and release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, who include all imprisoned women and children.

Jewish settlers also rallied in front of Netanyahu’s home in Jerusalem, where Shalit’s mother declared that a swap deal with Hamas was the only way to secure her son’s release.

A recent poll found that most Israelis support the prisoner deal with Hamas. Israel’s war minister Ehud Barack also supports the deal, but Netanyahu has been unwavering in his initial offer.


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