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Thousands of Israelis Rally for Release of Captive Soldier


A trek across Israel is highlighting the plight of a kidnapped soldier held by Palestinian militants.

Thousands of Israelis attended a rally Thursday in Jerusalem, as the family of captive soldier Gilad Shalit wound up a 12-day march across the country. They are pressing the Israeli government for a prisoner swap.

The soldier was captured by Palestinian gunmen in a cross-border raid four years ago and is being held by the Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

Noam Shalit, the captive soldier's father, said "We are going to demand categorically from the Israeli government to free Gilad after four years, and we won't wait for the fifth years and the sixth years and so on and so on."

Israel has offered 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the soldier; but Hamas has rejected the deal because it does not include top prisoners involved in some of the deadliest terrorist attacks. Israel has carried out lopsided prisoner swaps in the past, but many Israelis believe that is a mistake which should not be repeated.

Palestinian officials say at least 10,000 Palestinians are held in Israeli jails.

Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick says, "If we allow a thousand or more terrorists out of jail then many, many, many more Jews will be murdered."

The family plans to camp outside the prime minister's residence until the soldier is freed.

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