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Israel: Want to End the Gaza Blockade? Grant Shalit his Rights

If Hamas wants to end the blockade on Gaza, it must allow the Red Cross to visit Gilad Shalit, Lieberman says. Hamas rejects the offer.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 6/11/2010, 12:19 PM / Last Update: 6/11/2010, 1:03 PM

If Hamas truly wants to end the blockade on Gaza, there is an easy way to do so - allow the Red Cross to visit kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, says Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Granting visits to Shalit, as required by international law, is “the minimal condition for lifting the blockade,” he said.

"As long as this condition is not fulfilled, there is no reason to change the situation,” Lieberman declared.

Shalit was kidnapped in 2006 while on patrol outside Gaza, and has been held incommunicado by Hamas ever since. The terrorist group is demanding the release of more than one thousand terrorists held in Israeli prisons, including mass murderers, in exchange for the young soldier's freedom.

Israel put a blockade on Gaza following the kidnapping and Hamas' rise to power, while Egypt closed its border once Hamas seized control in 2007 and only opened it this week. Humanitarian goods are allowed into Gaza from Israel on an ongoing basis.

The flotilla organizers refused Shalit's father's request to bring him a letter.

Hamas rejected Lieberman's suggestion, and said Shalit will not be freed without the release of terrorists.

United States President Barack Obama called earlier in the week to loosen the blockade on Gaza. Obama called for a “new conceptual framework” in order to keep weapons out of Gaza, but improve life for residents of the area.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas demanded that Israel “lift the siege of the Palestinian people” by allowing goods to pass freely through all Israeli crossings to Gaza. Abbas also called to allow in dual-purpose materials such as concrete and pipes, which Hamas says are necessary for civilian construction but which Israel fears will be used to build bombs and bunkers, as has happened in the past.

Abbas said Thursday, “I fear that the idea of a Palestinian state alongside Israel is being eroded.” The PA chairman's statement appeared to be a warning that elements in the PA could decide to demand a “one-state solution” in which Israel would become a binational country.