JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told families of terror victims whose killers are being freed in the prisoner exchange for IDF St. Sgt. Gilad Shalit he "feels" their pain.
"I write to you with a heavy heart. I understand and know your pain," Netanyahu began.
In the letter, released by his office Monday morning, Netanyahu called the decision on Shalit's release "one of the hardest" he's ever made. "It was hard for me because it is hard for you."
"I belong to a bereaved family of the victims and fallen of terrorism. My brother was killed in the operation to rescue the Entebbe hostages," he said.
Netanyahu said during his military service, he always knew the State of Israel does not abandon its soldiers or citizens.
"I hope you will find comfort in the fact that I and the entire people of Israel are at your side and share your pain. Your loved ones are in our hearts forever," he wrote.
Meanwhile, the High Court convened Monday to hear four petitions filed by the Almagor Terror Victims Associations on behalf of families of terror victims.
After the Court granted permission to be added as respondents, Shalit's parents, Noam and Aviva, asked the three-justice panel to allow the agreement to stand as is.
"We sympathize with the pain of the families of the terror victims but ask that the court not make any change, however small, to the deal made by the government. Any delay, however small, will put Gilad's life in danger," Shalit's parents wrote.
"It is not a deal that was rushed into. It was formulated in long and rigorous negotiations and was agreed upon by a vast majority of the Israeli government, based on lengthy discussions with the relevant officials," the Shalits stated.
The consensus is the High Court will reject the petitions, as it has in the past, clearing the last obstacle before the prisoner exchange takes place Tuesday morning.