Israel: Shalit's Release before Truce

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convened the Security Cabinet Wednesday morning to hone the government's position on the release of kidnapped IDF (Israel Defense Forces) Corporal Gilad Shalit as an essential component of a cease-fire arrangement with Hamas.

On June 25, 2006, Gaza-based Hamas terrorists tunneled under the border to attack an IDF outpost near the Kerem Shalom crossing, killing two soldiers, wounding three and kidnapping Shalit.

The Security Cabinet, made up of Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, discussed the more problematic prisoners of the 1,000 Hamas is demanding in exchange for Shalit.

In the last weeks of his tenure in office, Olmert has prioritized Shalit's release.

"One thing is clear. The foundations that we set [for Shalit's release], even if they are not completed during my tenure, will make it possible to return him immediately afterward," Olmert said during a tour of the Western Wall tunnels on Tuesday.

"I have never stopped dreaming of the moment when Gilad will return to his family. There is a photo of him in my office, and I think of him everyday," he said.

Exiled Hamas Leader: No Deal

Meanwhile, Damascus-based Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal said the group would not link Shalit's release with negotiations for a tahadiyeh [temporary lull].

"There can be no truce unless the blockade is lifted and the crossings are opened," Mashaal told reporters in Damascus, following consultations with Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League.

"The truce issue should not be linked to the issue of the Israeli prisoner Shalit," Mashaal said.

"Israel is responsible for blocking Egypt's efforts to broker a truce by adding a new condition at the last minute," the French news agency AFP quoted Mashaal.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak made similar comments to reporters during a visit to Bahrain on Monday.

"Egypt will not change its position on the truce," Mubarak said, calling Shalit's release "a separate issue that can in no way be linked to the continuous negotiations to reach a cease-fire to end the suffering of the residents of Gaza."

Soldier's Family

As the drama unfolds, Shalit's family has continued its efforts to keep their son's release in the forefront of the government's priorities.

"Israel has made many humanitarian gestures since Gilad was taken captive, including the transport of medicines, treatment for the wounded and many other examples," read a statement released by the Shalit family on Tuesday evening.

"At the same time, Gilad has not experienced such gestures [by Hamas]. The Red Cross has not been allowed to visit him. For many long months, there has not even been proof that he is alive," the family's statement read.

Gilad's father, Noam, appealed to the government on all three Israeli television stations on Tuesday evening, asking that the opportunity to secure his son's release not be allowed to pass.

"We have been dealing with this for many months and still Gilad is not with us," the soldier's father said, while identifying with the difficulty prisoner releases posed for families who lost loved ones at the hands of terrorists.

His brother, Yoel, was killed in the Yom Kippur War, he explained, but his son could yet be saved.

Sources: The Associated Press, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, YNet news

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Tzippe Barrow

Tzippe Barrow

CBN News Jerusalem Bureau

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