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Wednesday, 25 June 2008

As truce barely holds, Israeli parents hope for return of kidnapped son

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
June 25th 2008

By Matthew Kalman
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS


French president Nicolas Sarkozy met with Noam and Aviva Schalit, the parents of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, in Jerusalem on June 23.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy met with Noam and Aviva Schalit, the parents of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, in Jerusalem on June 23.

JERUSALEM - A five-day-old truce between Hamas militants in Gaza and the Jewish state was hanging by a thread Tuesday after terrorists lobbed three rockets into Israel.

"This is a blatant violation of the calm, and we will weigh options," an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said of the hit on Sderot, a frequent target where two were injured.

The parents of a kidnapped soldier held by terrorists for two years are hoping the cease-fire holds long enough that Israel can win back their son.

The attack on the border town of Sderot by Islamic Jihad came hours after Israeli troops killed two Palestinian militants in the West Bank city of Nablus.

"We cannot keep our hands tied when this is happening to our brothers in the West Bank," an Islamic Jihad spokesman said.

Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri, while condemning Israel's West Bank raid, said his group "is keen to maintain the calm."

The first big test of the truce struck last Thursday comes as Israel works for the release of a 21-year-old soldier held by militants for two years.

Egypt, which brokered the cease-fire, is trying to win the freedom of Cpl. Gilad Schalit, kidnapped when he was 19 during a cross-border raid that in 2006.

His dad, Noam Schalit, has accused the Israeli government of "abandoning" his son by not including his release as part of the original cease-fire agreement.

"Until now, I have not spoken bluntly because I feared I might, heaven forbid, damage negotiations," a frustrated Schalit told the Daily News.

"We are trying to make sure there will be a link between this cease-fire and negotiations regarding the release of Gilad or (any prisoner swap)," Schalit said. "The agreement has disconnected between the two issues."

Schalit and his wife Aviva on Monday lost an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court to tie any easing of the economic blockade of Gaza to the fate of their son.

Gilad's parents have received only three letters and a video message to prove that their son is still alive. The most recent was a hand-written letter delivered earlier this month by representatives of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

"I still think and dream of the day I am freed and see you again, and still I keep the hope that that day is near, but I know it is not in your hands or in mine," the soldier wrote.

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