Captive Israeli Soldier, Gilad Shalit, “celebrates” sixth birthday in captivity

Today marks day number 1891 of Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in Hamas’ captivity. It also marks the soldiers’ sixth birthday in captivity, his 25th birthday. More than anything, the “Gilad Shalit issue”, while being a painful issue in Israel (a continue who believes in “leaving no man behind”), it’s also an opportunity to get a small glimpse as to who Israel’s enemies really are, what it must deal with fend off foolish claims about the issue.

Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit

The Taking

On June 25th 2006, early Sunday morning, Gilad Shalit was captured in a cross-border attack. Militants from Gaza infiltrated Israel through an underground tunnel going below the Kerem Shalom crossing. A rocket-propelled grenade hit his tank and according to reports caused him to break his arm and lightly wound his shoulder (according to a BBC report from July 1st 2006). In the attack, two Palestinian militants and two other Israeli soldiers died. Gilad Shalit was captured and taken back to the Gaza Strip.

On a statement issued the following morning, the following terror organizations took responsibility and claimed to have taken Gilad Shalit: Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Popular Resistance Committee, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades and the Army of Islam.

This attack and kidnapping occurred in 2006 WHILE the Palestinian Authority was still in the Gaza Strip (before its’ expulsion by Hamas in 2007).

This attack and kidnapping occurred in 2006 AFTER the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, over 10 months to be exact all, after all settlements, settlers and soldiers were removed from the Gaza Strip completely and the entire area has been handed to the Palestinians by Israel in the summer of 2005.

This attack and kidnapping occurred in 2006 BEFORE any kind of blockade, either land or naval, was put on the Gaza Strip and in fact was one of the first reasons Israel placed the blockade.

This attack and kidnapping occurred across the border ON ISRAEL’S TERRITORY! Even if someone was to hold to some silly argument of a “just war against an occupier” (which is completely untrue due to the fact that Israel withdrew all forces from Gaza almost a year prior to this event), this was a soldier on Israeli soil that was protecting its’ borders and sovereignty. Of course, to the people who took and still hold him this does not matter. They consider all of Israel a part of their future Palestinian state, and call for the destruction of Israel and death of all Jews.

The immediate aftermath and previous swap deals

On June 28th Israel opened an operation in Gaza in an attempt to find and retrieve Gilad Shalit, an operation which didn’t last long and was unsuccessful. To this day, Israel has no idea where Shalit is being held and according to Home Front Defense Minister, Matan Vilani, even Hamas’ leaders don’t know where Shalit is being held. It is believed by Israel that only a small group of militants know his whereabouts to protect the information and that any deal that will be reached for his release, should not only be agreed by Hamas, but by the actual men holding him (At the end of the day, this is yet another example as to how the different militant terror groups in Gaza operate and how far they are from being able to reach a proper structure of a country and a democratic one, at that).

The efforts to find Gilad Shalit fell through. Two weeks after his abduction, another cross-border attack happened, this time on the northern border of Israel. Hezbollah militants crossed the international border between Israel and Lebanon, attacked an Israeli patrol and kidnapped two bodies of Israeli soldiers from the reserved forces. Israel retaliated the attack and was quick to find itself in a war against Hezbollah in the north.

The bodies of Israeli soldiers taken on July 12th 2006 – Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev – were returned in a swap deal with Hezbollah on July 16th 2008. For the two dead bodies, Israeli gave Hezbollah five militants that were serving sentence in Israel and 199 bodies of Lebanese and Palestinian militants. One of those five live militants was Samir Kuntar – On April 22nd 1979, he headed a terror attack in Israel’s northern city, Nahariya. One of the incidents of that terror attack was when he took a 31 year old father, Danny Haran, and his four year old daughter, Einat. The mother managed to hide with her 2 year old daughter and a neighbor in a crawl space. Samir Kuntar first bashed in the little girl’s head with the butt of his gun, and then shot the father, drowning him and making sure he is dead. On the day of his release, he was welcomed in a big support rally in Beirut. The day was declared a state holiday throughout Lebanon. Today he is not only a free man, but labeled a so-called freedom figher and a “hero”.

This exchange deal comes only a few years after a previous exchange deal – in October of 2000, in yet another cross-border attack on Israeli soil, Hezbollah militants, dressed as UN soldiers, killed and abducted the bodies of three Israeli soldiers – Benny Avraham, Adi Avitan and Omar Sawaid. On November 9th, 2003, their bodies were returned along with [living] Israeli citizen Elchnan Tenenbaum who was abducted by Hezbollah after being lured to Dubai for a drug deal. In exchange for three bodies and a living man, Israel gave back 44 Labanese prisoners (alive), over 300 Palestinian prisoners (also alive, didn’t find the correct number), a Hezbollah activist with German nationality, and the remains of 59 terrorists and militants. Israel also handed over a map detailing its’ past mime fields in Lebanon’s territory, prior to it’s withdrawal from Lebanon in May of 2000.

There are many more swap deals in Israel’s past. All follow the same formula – a few, usually dead, Israeli bodies for more than 10 times that number of living prisoners and much more.

The Price Hamas has put for Gilad Shalit’s release

To this day, Hamas continuously claims that Israel is making “impossible, crazy conditions” for the swap deal. If you haven’t heard this already, then once you will you will have to agree – this is crazy. Hamas is unwilling to free Gilad Shalit because Israel still won’t meet its’ demands – for one soldier, they are demanding about 1,300 prisoners who were captured, trialed, and sentenced in Israel for there crimes and involvement in terror and acts deliberately  designed to kill and hurt civilians.

Throughout the years, Israel has made concessions on its’ part. While first completely refusing to release any “terrorists with blood on their hands”, it has then continued to loose its’ terminology to get more and more prisoners into deal, while still refusing to release “the hardcore terrorists” – approximately 20 high-ranking terrorists. As of December of 2009, Israel has offered the release of over a 1,000 prisoners for Gilad Shalit. Hamas has refused to compromise on any issue and accept Israel’s offers.

On their part, Hamas has been most flexible (and even with that very little) with Israel’s demand that the released prisoners will not be returned to Palestinian territory but in stand be expelled to other countries, mostly European countries. That is due to the fact that many prisoners (optimistic statistics point to roughly 60 percent) who are released return to the ways of terror – the planning and executing of Israeli citizens. The same is true for the swap deals with Hezbollah mentioned above. All the while, these expelled prisoners would be free to use their freedom and stay in Europe to help promote the de-legitimizing against Israel while iterating a completely distorted version of the truth.

It should be noted that Hamas demands also the release of Israeli Arabs who took part in terror and even used their Israeli citizenship to the advantage of the killing.

In the meantime, Israel has been releasing Palestinian prisoners in acts of trust-building steps towards the Palestinian Authority (acts that the current status of negotiations can bare witness to its’ ineffectiveness) and because they’ve served their time. Palestinian prisoners are that – prisoners. trialed and sentenced. They are not held indefinitely. Just last May, a high-ranking Hamas official, Muhammad Abu Tir was released from Israel’s prison after being arrested in 2006 due to Shalit’s abduction.

In late September of 2009, Israel managed to reach a deal with Hamas – in exchange to the release of 20 female prisoners, Hamas handed (via a German mediator) a videotape showing Gilad Shalit, alive and well. In the video he is seen reading a note dictated to him by those holding him and revealing personal information, indicating to the Israeli government that the abductors got to him to tell all he knows about the Israeli army.


Hamas mental war against the Israeli public

Gilad Shalit is a sore issue in the Israeli public. The public is divided on the issue – past experience has taught against the release of terrorists but every mother wishes to know that when her son goes off to war, he will be returned to her. It’s an issue of principals. While other western countries have simply solved this with a “we don’t talk or negotiate with terrorists”, Israel finds its’ values in dire conflict. On this very conflict, Hamas has been preying. In the past five years he has been doing all it can to influence the Israeli public, to pressure its’ governments and to demand the release of Gilad Shalit “at all cost”.

Last year, Gilad’s parents, Aviva and Noam, campaigned for his release with a walk – they walked from their home in northern Israel all the way to the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s, residence in Jerusalem and asked the public, who came in thousands each day, to join them. Ever since, over a year now, they are sitting in a tent day after day in front of his house demanding his release, inviting the public to come, show solidarity and demand his release each day. The absurd thing is that the reality created is that they protesting against the side negotiating for the release, not the side actually holding their son. That is because they know only Israel will be flexible – Hamas will continue to hold to Gilad, dead or alive, until all their demands are met. Israel, constantly, is the one releasing more and more prisoners and terrorists back to the blood circle, in the effort to “not leave any man behind.”

Among those despicable mind games Hamas is playing are videos released showing the “fate” of the soldier, cartoons depicting him chained and crying alone in a dingy cell with no windows, and “shows”. These horrible shows include a time where they put “an actor” in a cage wearing Israeli uniform for the Gaza public to come and “adore” and plays portraying how miserable the soldier is. In December of 2008, Hamas organized a huge rally in Gaza celebrating 21 years to its’ formation. In that rally, they brought a man on stage, dressed in Israeli uniform, showing him miserable, crying and begging for his release as the crowd cheered and applauded.

On July 29th, 2009, Jeruslam Post newspaper reported that it obtained photographs showing children at a Hamas-run camp during graduation as they’re reenacting the abduction. A senior Hamas official, Osama Mazini, was present.

Palestinian prisoners conditions Vs. Gilad’s and International law

The conditions the Palestinians receive in Israeli prisons are best told by the statement made by Israeli Prime Minister Netanayahu, on the eve of Gilad Shalit’s 5th year abduction anniversary. In that statement he says he instructed the prisons to take away the prisoners’ cellphones and smartphones (leaving them only with the option to make regular calls under the prisons’ inspection) and to stop the enrollment of prisons’ in academic facilities. That statement did not concern all the prisoners who are already enrolled colleges, universities and so on, getting a degree on Israel’s taxpayers dime.

Another example as to the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons is the acts of demonstrators for the release of Gilad Shalit who block buses filled with Palestinian prisoners’ families on their way to visit them. They are protesting that Israel is allowing the prisoners to receive family visits while Gilad receives no such privilege.

Gilad Shalit on the other hand has not received one family visitation, his family cannot contact him (they’ve tried before through ex-US president Jimmy Carter and a French envoy who passed a letter, but nothing) and he does not get to study and get a degree. For five years now, Hamas has refused allowing the International Red Cross to visit him and have in fact violated almost all (if not completely all) international laws, among them are:

  • The right to humane treatment (Article 13 of the Third Geneva convention)
  • The right to have knowledge of a Prison of War’s location (Article 23)
  • The right to unfettered access to the Red Cross (Article 26)
  • The prohibition on taking and holding a person by force in order to compel the enemy to meet certain demands, while threatening to harm or kill the person if the demands are not met

And many more. In fact, their violations are so crude that the Red Cross has issued a severe statement when Hamas held onto its’ refusal last June (five years after the abduction and still no Red cross visitations, family contact etc). Human Rights Watch went on to call Hamas’ treatment of Gilad a cruel and inhumane war crime that amounts to torture. Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, a highly critical organization of Israel,  called the holding of Gilad Shalit an inhumane war crime. It even tried to publish an ad in a Gaza paper calling for Shalit’s release, but were met with a refusal to run the ad.

The aforementioned Samir Kuntar, by the way, not only got a degree in Social and Political science, while in Israeli prison but also got married to an Israeli Arab woman, Kifah Kayyal, who recieved a monthly stipend from the Israeli government as the wife of a prisoner. Again – Gilad enjoys none of these privilleges.

This is face of who Israel is up against – terrorists who have zero respect to International Law and conventions are not held responsible. Terrorists who are busy in freeing convicted terrorists for the sole aim of labeling them “freedom fighters”, heroes and to get them back (approximately 60%, according to optimistic statistics) to the ways of terror and bloodshed.

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