Rallies took place Sunday in both Gaza and Tel Aviv over the possibility of a prisoner swap in which terrorists would be released from Israeli prisons in exchange for the freedom of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who was taken captive near Gaza in 2006 in a terrorist attack that killed two other soldiers.
While the Tel Aviv rally was critical of the Israeli government and called on it to give in to Hamas demands, the Gaza rally encouraged Hamas to stay firmly behind its demands, so that both rallies in effect supported the Hamas stand.
In Gaza, demonstrators rallied outside the home of senior Hamas terrorist Mahmoud Zahar and called on Hamas not to ease its demands for Shalit's freedom. Hamas demands that Israel release many arch-terrorists responsible for multiple murders along with 1,000 other prisoners; Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has refused that demand.
Netanyahu has offered to release 1,000 prisoners, but stated that the most dangerous terrorists would not be released, and that none of the murderous prisoners would be allowed to return to Judea and Samaria for fear of a surge in terror as occurred when terrorists were released to those areas in the past afer exchange agreements.
The Gaza rally called to insist that Israel release even arch-terrorists, and release all terrorists to their place of residence. Zahar addressed the crowd and assured demonstrators that Hamas has no intention of relinquishing any of its demands. “We will continue even if we must pay the price in blood, in order to release the prisoners from jail,” he said.
Hamas leader in exile Khaled Mashaal made similar remarks Saturday. Mashaal said Hamas would not yield on a single demand, and threatened, “If one soldier isn't enough to release our prisoners, we will do everything to capture more soldiers.”
Meanwhile, a march for Shalit in Israel reached Tel Aviv, where an estimated 3,000 people took to the streets to pressure the government to obtain Shalit's freedom, even if it must give in to Hamas' demands in order to do so.
Yoel Shalit, Gilad's brother, addressed the crowds and called on Netanyahu to “do everything, more than you have done until now, to free my brother.”
Shalit's mother Aviva responded to a recent Netanyahu speech in which the prime minister said that Israel would not pay “any price” for Gilad's release. “We never asked for release at all costs, the government determined the cost,” Aviva said.
Last week, father Noam gave his own response to Netanyahu, saying, “[The marchers] know the price of Gilad's release. They also know the price of abandoning a soldier.” He dismissed Netanyahu's warnings that releasing arch-terrorists will increase terrorism and strengthen Hamas, saying the prime minister was “trying to draw a terror scenario” and “[recycling] the press conference by Olmert in 2009.”