We, the State of Israel, have one simple message for the Hamas government of Gaza, “Free Gilad Shalit”. Gilad was 19 years old when he was kidnapped by Hamas. On August 28th he will be turn 24 and he is still being held hostage by Hamas.
In August of 2005, Israel disengaged from Gaza. Israel painfully removed people from their homes with the idea of a better future for Israel and in turn the Palestinians. It’s not important if you were personally for or against the disengagement. It is, however, important with regards to Gilad Shalit. Gilad Shalit was kidnapped in 2006. We disengaged from Gaza in 2005. This means that the border between Israel and Gaza was the 1967 border. Gilad was on sovereign undisputed Israeli territory when he was kidnapped. Patrolling and protecting borders is a right every nation in the world is afforded.
Another important factor are the qassam rockets. The first rocket was launched in 2001 but it only had a 3km range. As the technology advanced, so did the rocket fire. There were 155 rockets launched in 2003, 281 rockets launched in 2004 and 179 rockets launched in 2005. In 2005, we disengaged from Gaza. It was a chance for Palestinians living in Gaza to make a better life for themselves. Gaza is a very densely populated area. This gave them more land to build on but that never happened. Farming infrastructure was left behind by the Israeli’s who were forced to leave. This infrastructure would have allowed for farming in an area that is not naturally conducive to the growing of produce. But instead of an economic boom, the area was looted and stripped of everything it had to offer. Instead, the Palestinian leadership chose to build terrorist training camps where settlements had once stood. They turned the area into a launching ground for rockets aimed as always against Israeli citizens. In 2006, there were 946 rockets fired at Israeli civilians so Gilad Shalit had every right to be patrolling the borders of his country.
After enduring constant rocket attacks and the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit there was still no blockade of Gaza. The blockade came in 2007 after the bloody takeover of Gaza by Hamas. The blockade is a weapons blockade. Truckloads of aid enters Gaza on a daily basis. While I wish it were true, Israel is not blockading Gaza because of one Israeli soldier. Egypt, which is also blockading Gaza would not be doing so if that was the case.
On June 25, 2006 in a well planned attack near the Kerem Shalom border crossing, 19 year old Gilad Shalit was kidnapped from sovereign Israeli territory. Using a tunnel built under the border, the terrorists ignited explosive charges and anti tank missiles that killed Staff Sergeant Pavel Slutzky and Lieutenant Hanan Barak. Five others were wounded in the cross border attack.
For four years now, the Hamas government of Gaza has spit in the face of international law with no consequences for it’s actions. The third Geneva Convention prohibits the taking of hostages. The Geneva convention covers war and armed conflict so the laws apply to the taking of Gilad Shalit. In addition, there are rights that must be given with regards to any prisoner. The right to know the prisoner’s location. The right to send and receive letters on a monthly basis. Most importantly, the right to unfettered access by the International Red Cross. By continuing to hold Gilad Shalit as a human bargaining chip for the past 4 years Hamas remains in contempt of these laws.
In June 2007, Hamas released an audio recording of Gilad Shalit. In October 2009, Hamas released a heart wrenching video of Gilad Shalit reading a prepared statement. Hamas has used the image of Gilad Shalit to torment his family and in turn the people of Israel who stand together in their desire to see him freed. The most recent was an animated video showing Gilad aging into an old man still held in captivity by Hamas.
Hamas talks about negotiations. They blame Israel for the breakdown in negotiations. Look carefully and you will see that there is no negotiating with Hamas. They have not changed their demands and have even threatened to up their demands. Clearly, negotiating with Hamas only works if you give them everything they want and nothing less.
Very often those siding with Hamas will try and place Palestinian prisoners in Israel’s jails as the equivalent of Gilad Shalit. These are two different issues. Gilad Shalit was not arrested. He was kidnapped. Palestinian prisoners have been arrested with specific charges against them. There is no moral equivalent between the two. Palestinian prisoners get family visits. Their families know where they are. They are visited by the Red Cross. Those are only a few of the differences between the two groups. I have also seen where Hamas supporters have tried to apply the word “hostages” to the Palestinian prisoners in our jails saying they were kidnapped. This terminology does not apply because they are not being held at an unknown location and there are no ransom requests involved, which the definition of the word, “hostage” requires. This is a tactic used to deflect the spotlight from the real issue, Gilad Shalit.
As long as Hamas continues breaking international law and holding Gilad Shalit for ransom, we will continue fighting for his freedom. Hamas is guilty of noncompliance with the Geneva Convention. It is also also guilty of stealing the life of a 19 year old boy who is now turning 24 and is waiting for his freedom and a chance to return to a normal life. Four years is too long. Free Gilad Shalit.