Mural at a Shalit rally
Mural at a Shalit rallyIsrael News Photo: Flash 90

On Wednesday, just two days before IDF soldier Gilad Shalit’s fourth birthday in Hamas captivity, his sister Hadas will be enlisting in the army.

Sources close to the Shalit family say that Hadas is interested in working with soldier welfare or performing psychological testing. Following initial training, she could serve at Troop 71’s Ramat HaGolan command base where her brother also served.

Instead of celebrating the enlistment, the Shalit family is preparing a wave of community efforts to secure Gilad’s release, according to a report in the Hebrew daily Yisrael Hayom. The "Gilad’s Army of Friends" website campaign has been active, recruiting key members to help with its imminent launching. On Sunday, several recording artists are expected in Petah Tikva to help record a short video to be used by the internet campaign’s outreach efforts.

A large event is planned for Thursday at Mitzpeh Hila to mark Gilad’s 23rd birthday on August 28. He was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists who tunneled under the Gaza-Israel border in June 2006.

Meanwhile, Arab media sources at the end of last week reported progress in negotiations between Hamas and Israel on a prisoner exchange to procure Shalit’s release -- a report that has been publicized numerous times over the past three years, each time only to be proven false.

Hamas spokesman Moshir al-Masri, quoted by the Palestinian Authority (PA) website Kuds Pras, claimed that negotiations were close to completion at the end of June before they were derailed by the Americans and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. A senior Hamas official said that Abbas feared the political repercussions of the release of Hamas parliament members.