Protesters Mark Shalit's 24th Birthday

Thousands mark Gilad Shalit's 24th birthday in a Jerusalem protest tent. Britain and France demand his release. His mother calls to Sara Netanyahu.

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Maayana Miskin, | updated: 23:38

Noam and Aviva Shalit
Noam and Aviva Shalit
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Thousands of people marked captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit's 24th birthday on Saturday. The ceremony was held in Jerusalem, in a protest tent set up by Shalit's parents, Noam and Aviva, opposite the Prime Minister's home.

“Today is your birthday. This year, too, I did not buy you a gift and I did not bake you a cake,” Aviva Shalit said. “We miss you so much; we have spared nothing in order to bring you back.”

“Once again, we ask forgiveness,” she added. “Forgive us for not managing to release you.”

She called on Israel's leaders to “wake up, before it is too late.” For the first time, she turned to the Prime Minister's wife, Sara Netanyahu, to help her.

A French representative was at the ceremony to read a letter written by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy wrote, “Gilad Shalit's fifth birthday in captivity must be the last,” adding that Shalit is a hostage, not a prisoner of war.

Britain's Foreign Office released a statement as well, saying, “The thoughts of many in Britain are with Gilad Shalit and his family.” Shalit's captivity is “unjustifiable and unacceptable,” the statement continued. “The British government demands his immediate and unconditional release.”

Gilad Shalit was kidnapped in 2006 by Gaza terrorists, and has been held incommunicado by Hamas in violation of international law. Hamas is demanding the release of over 1,000 imprisoned terrorists, including those responsible for multiple murders, in exchange for his freedom.

Shortly after the birthday ceremony at which Aviva Shalit called for government action, government spokesman Nir Hafetz said, “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu plans to invite the Shalit family to met with him before Rosh Hashanah, after he returns from the peace talks in Washington.” The family hopes that their son's release will be on the Prime Ministers' agenda when he goes to Washington later this week to start direct talks with the PA.