Israeli block Gaza to mark soldier’s three years captivity

By Admin - Tue Jun 23, 2:02 pm

news_Ghaza_19EREZ CROSSING ( 2009-06-23 14:05:29 ) :Dozens of Israeli protestors blocked crossings into Gaza on Tuesday demanding the release of a soldier who has been held captive for three years by Hamas.

At Erez, the main crossing for people between Israel and the Palestinian territory, some 50 people gathered demanding their government do more to free Gilad Shalit, who was seized by Hamas on June 25, 2006.

“The Palestinian prisoners in Israel get visits, television and even education,” said Eric Sadan, as he stood at Erez, where protestors were blocking three United Nations vehicles from crossing into the Gaza Strip..

“Not only can we not visit Gilad, the Red Cross cannot either,” he said.

“Three years is far too much time for a soldier to still be in Gaza,” said Chaim Blair, who wore a white T-shirt with Shalit’s picture and had a yellow ribbon tied around his fingers.

“We want our government to do something,” he said. “If our soldier is alive, then the government must free him now. Not after years and years.”

At the Kerem Shalom crossing in Gaza’s south, protestors blocked convoys of trucks of aid waiting to cross into the territory, which Israel and Egypt have kept sealed to all but essential humanitarian goods since June 2007, when Hamas, a group pledged to Israel’s destruction, seized power in the enclave.

Another group of around 50 protestors gathered about a kilometre from the Karni goods crossing, with police not allowing them to get closer.

Shalit, then 19 years old, was snatched on June 25, 2006 by militants who had tunnelled out of Gaza and attacked an army post, killing two other soldiers.

He is believed to have been held inside the territory since, although no Red Cross officials have been allowed access to him.

Israel and Hamas have held months of indirect talks through Egypt on a prisoner exchange that would see the Jewish state free hundreds of Palestinian detainees in exchange for Shalit, but with no deal being struck.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed a new pointman for the negotiations when he took office on March 31, but the talks have yet to be renewed.

Shalit’s case has become a cause celebre in Israel, where military service after high school is compulsory for the vast majority of the population and where previous governments have released hundreds of prisoners in exchange for soldiers or their remains.

“Everyone deep down knows that what happened to Gilad could happen to him,” said Sagi Yosef as he stood outside the Erez crossing. “In a situation like this you expect your government to do everything to bring you back.”

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