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Israelis Rally for Captive Soldier Held in Gaza


Hundreds of Israelis demonstrated at a protest tent outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem demanding the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit. He was kidnapped by Palestinian gunmen from the Islamic militant group Hamas in a cross-border raid nearly three years ago.

Hamas is demanding the release of at least a thousand Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit, including top militants responsible for deadly suicide bombings. Israel has balked, but protesters like Esther Wachsman say the nation must pay the price.

"Everything, just give me my son," she said. "That is what a mother must demand."

Wachsman's son Nachshon was kidnapped and killed by Hamas militants while serving in the Israeli army in 1994.

"I don't know how the Shalit family can live for three years with what I had to live with for one week," she said. "I just don't know."

Israel has agreed to lopsided prisoner swaps in the past, but Israeli analyst Yoni Ben Menachem says that only encourages more terrorist blackmail.

"The whole policy was wrong from the beginning," he said. "So we have to put an end to it because we have 11,000 terrorists in our prisons; and they know now that for each soldier they get one-thousand terrorists, so they will kidnap 10 more soldiers."

With a new Israeli government set to be installed in the next few weeks, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has softened his position. He hopes to close a prisoner swap as a final achievement before he leaves office.

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