Activists seeking the release of Israeli hostage Gilad Shalit are attempting to block the entrances to the Hamas-controlled Gaza region Tuesday morning. In solidarity, shippers decided to suspend deliveries to Gaza as well.
Hundreds of activists from the Im Tirtzu Zionist revival grassroots movement, Shalit family and friends, kibbutz members, national student unions and concerned Israelis from around the country converged on the Erez, Nahal Oz and Kerem Shalom crossings into Gaza in a protest against the continued captivity of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Captured in 2006, Shalit is being held hostage by Hamas and its allies in an attempt to extort concessions from Israel. This week marks the third anniversary of his abduction.
The umbrella group Struggle for the Freedom of Gilad Shalit is blocking shipments of supplies to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority in Gaza.
Under the slogan popularized by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his previous term, "They'll give - they'll get", the protesters say supplies to Gaza should be suspended at least until Shalit is allowed visitors or there is a sign of life from him, if not before he is released. Using heavy mechanical equipment and private vehicles, the protesters are blocking the Gaza crossings to all traffic, including diplomatic and media caravans.
Among their demands, protesters called for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to have access to Shalit. The ICRC itself has demanded that Hamas allow Shalit to contact his family. The PA regime in Gaza has thus far refused, demanding the release of hundreds of terrorists from Israel's jails in exchange for their hostage.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, recently in the region for a visit with the terrorist organization said he delivered a letter from Shalit's family to the soldier, and asked the group to give it to the hostage. Hamas later denied that Carter had brought a letter, however and claimed instead that the message from the soldier's family had been verbal only.
Demonstrators blocking the crossings have reportedly even recruited a helicopter, so that the activists on the ground can get updated warnings of trucks on their way to the Gaza region. However, they may be getting another sort of help in halting shipments as well. The Transporters and Shipping Council requested that shippers not send supplies to Gaza's commercial crossings Tuesday to show support for the actions of the Struggle for the Freedom of Gilad Shalit. Council chairman Gabi Ben-Harush stated that he hopes that the decision will help the grassroots group's efforts to secure the Shalit's release.
The protest at the Gaza crossings is the first in a planned series of events this week, marking the third year of Shalit's imprisonment. A large rally, drawing high-profile VIPs such as Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and former Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, is planned for Thursday at the Ministry of Defense.
"We are moving into a more active stage, unlike in the past," a spokesperson for the Struggle for the Freedom of Gilad Shalit told Arutz Sheva. "We will not allow the prime minister to let this issue slip from the daily agenda, not for a moment."