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Israelis Rally for Freedom of Captive Soldier Held in Gaza


A demonstration in Israel Sunday sought to bring attention to the plight of a kidnapped soldier held by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. Robert Berger reports from VOA's bureau in Jerusalem.

About 3,000 Israelis held a rally demanding the release of soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Palestinian gunmen in a cross-border raid more than two years ago. Shalit is being held by the Islamic militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

The demonstration took place at an Israeli border crossing with Gaza. The soldier's father, Noam Shalit, was there.

He accused the Israeli government of not doing enough to bring his son home and he called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to make a decision on a prisoner exchange.

Hamas wants Israel to release at least 500 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit, including those involved in deadly attacks on Israelis. Israel has made similar lopsided prisoner exchanges in the past, but the government has refused to meet Hamas' demand.

Israel's Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, says the government is doing all it can to bring Shalit home. But he says the rally was counterproductive.

Barak says the demonstration would encourage Hamas to demand an even higher price for Shalit's release.

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