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Family of Captive Israeli Soldier Marches for Prisoner Swap

  • Robert Berger

A protest march in Israel is highlighting the plight of a soldier held by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip since 2006.

The family of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is on a 12-day march from northern Israel to Jerusalem to press for his release. The march comes on the fourth anniversary of the soldier's capture during a cross-border raid by gunmen from the Palestinian militant group Hamas. He has been held in Gaza ever since but has not been seen in public. A Hamas video released last year showed that he is alive.

Noam Shalit, the captive soldier's father, urged the Israeli government to carry out a prisoner swap.

"I call on you to return to our son the most basic thing of all, which he has been deprived of, the very same thing that we all take for granted, his freedom."

Hamas has been demanding the release of thousands of Palestinians, including women and children, from Israeli jails.

At the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed sympathy for the plight of the Shalit family.

Mr. Netanyahu called on the international community to support the State of Israel in its "just demand" the captive soldier be returned home immediately.

A Palestinian man looks at pictures of Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails, Thursday, April 15, 2010. Palestinians marked the annual prisoner's day by calling for the release of over 11,000 Palestinian prisoners, including women and children, curre

A Palestinian man looks at pictures of Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails, Thursday, April 15, 2010. Palestinians marked the annual prisoner's day by calling for the release of over 11,000 Palestinian prisoners, including women and children, curre

But the Israeli government has refused to pay the price demanded by Hamas: 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit. Israel fears that releasing top militants involved in deadly attacks will lead to a new wave of terrorism.

Hamas official Ayman Taha accused Israel of "playing games."

Taha said that unless Israel agrees to release all the prisoners on the list, there will not be a prisoner swap.

The Shalit family's march will end next week at the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem, and they plan to remain there in a protest tent until the captive soldier is freed.

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