Capture of Gilad Shalit

Event Details :

Ivri Date: 29 Sivan, 5766

English Date: 25 June, 2006

Additional Details:

Gilad Shalit (Hebrew: גלעד שליט‎, born 28 August 1986) is an Israeli soldier who was captured in a cross border raid on the crossing Kerem Shalom from the Gaza Strip by Palestinian militants on 25 June 2006 and has been held hostage by Hamas since. Shalit, a soldier of the IDF's Armor Corps, held the rank of corporal at the time of the incident but has since been promoted to staff sergeant.[8] He became the first Israeli soldier captured[9] by militant Palestinian forces since Nachshon Wachsman in 1994.[10] His abduction[11] and the following cross border raid by Hezbollah, resulting in the abduction of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev into Lebanon, were key events leading up to the conflicts in Gaza and Lebanon during summer 2006. Shalit holds a French citizenship, a fact that encouraged France and the European Union to be involved to some extent in the efforts to release him.

Shalit was born on 28 August 1986 in Nahariya, Israel, and was raised from the age of two in Mitzpe Hila in the western Galilee. He graduated with distinction from Manor Kabri High School. Shalit began military service in the Israel Defense Forces in July 2005, and “despite a low medical profile, he preferred to serve in a combat unit, following his elder brother Yoel into the armored corps.”[13] He holds dual Israeli and French citizenship.

Early on Sunday morning, 25 June 2006, Shalit was captured by Palestinians who attacked an Israeli army post on the Israeli side of the southern Gaza Strip border after having crossed through an underground tunnel near the Kerem Shalom border crossing. During the morning attack, two Palestinian militants[15] as well as two IDF soldiers were killed and three others wounded, aside from Shalit, who himself suffered a broken left hand and a light shoulder wound after his tank was hit with an RPG.[16]

Shalit’s captors issued a statement on Monday, 26 June 2006, offering information on Shalit if Israel agreed to release all female Palestinian prisoners and all Palestinian prisoners under the age of 18.[17] The statement came from the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committees (which includes members of Fatah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas), and a previously unknown group calling itself the Army of Islam.

Israeli forces entered Khan Yunis on 28 June 2006 to search for Shalit. According to David Siegel, a spokesman at the Israeli embassy in Washington, D. C., “Israel did everything it could in exhausting all diplomatic options and gave Mahmoud Abbas the opportunity to return the captured Israeli… This operation can be terminated immediately, conditioned on the release of Gilad Shalit.”[18] On the same day, four Israeli Air Force aircraft flew over Syrian President Bashar Assad's palace in Latakia, as IDF spokesperson stated that Israel views the Syrian leadership as a sponsor of Hamas.[19]

On 29 June, the commander of the Israeli Southern Command, Aluf Yoav Galant, confirmed that Shalit was still in Gaza. Israel’s Minister of Justice, Haim Ramon, added that Shalit was being held in southern Gaza, specifically. The military correspondent for the Israel Broadcasting Authority claimed that Shalit was being held captive in Rafah, and that there was indication that he was still alive. However, IDF spokesperson Brig. Gen. Miri Regev stated, “we are not convinced he is being held in southern Gaza… [only] that he is being held in Gaza.”[20]

On 1 July, the BBC reported that Shalit had been treated by a Palestinian doctor for a broken hand and a light shoulder wound. Israeli governmental authorities threatened that the “sky will fall” if Shalit is harmed.[21]

On the same day, Shalit’s Palestinian captors issued another demand to the Israelis, asking them to free 1,000 Palestinian prisoners (in addition to all women and young prisoners as previously demanded) and to end Israel’s incursion into Gaza.[22] Two days later, the captors issued a 24-hour ultimatum for meeting their demands, threatening unspecified consequences if Israel refused.[23] Hours after the ultimatum was issued, Israel officially rejected demands, stating that “there will be no negotiations to release prisoners.”[24]

After Shalit’s capture, the Papal Nuncio to Israel, Archbishop Antonio Franco, made an unsuccessful attempt to secure the release of Shalit via the Catholic Church’s Gaza-based parish.

In September 2006, Egyptian mediators received a letter written by Gilad in which he stated that he was alive and well. The handwriting was confirmed to be that of Cpl. Shalit.[26] In October, Egypt was also reported to be negotiating with Hamas on behalf of Israel for Shalit’s release.[27]

On 28 October 2006, the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) said in a statement that all three parties had agreed to a proposal by Egyptian mediators regarding the release of corporal Gilad Shalit. The PRC did not provide details, but said that the Egyptian proposal would include the release of Palestinians held by Israel.[28] It was the first time since Shalit’s capture that any of the factions indicated that his release might be imminent.

In November 2006, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal indicated that Shalit was alive and in good health.[29]

On 4 January 2007, Hamas offered to give Israel a videotape proving that Shalit is still alive if Israel released all Palestinian women and children from Israeli prisons.[30] Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected Hamas’s proposal. Shalit’s father, Noam Shalit, seemed to agree with the government’s response, stating on 7 January, “I want my son back, not a video or a letter.”[31]

On 9 January 2007, Abu Mujahed, a spokesman for the captors, asserted that Shalit “has not been harmed at all,” going on to say, “He is being treated in accordance with Islamic values regulating the treatment of prisoners of war.” However, he threatened, “We have managed to keep the soldier in captivity for six months and we have no problem keeping him for years.”[32]

On 17 January 2007, one of the captor groups, the Army of Islam headed by Mumtaz Dormush, claimed that Shalit is held exclusively by Hamas.[33]

On 8 March 2007, The Jerusalem Post reported that an agreement has been reached with Hamas over the number of prisoners Israel will release in return for Shalit. Israel and Hamas are still negotiating specific prisoners that Hamas wants freed in return for Shalit.[34]

On 7 April 2007, It was reported that the captors of Gilad Shalit have transferred to Israel, via Egyptian mediators, a list of Palestinian prisoners they want freed. The list includes approximately 1300 names some of which are high ranking Fatah members.[35]

On 4 February 2008, it was reported that Hamas had sent Gilad's family a second letter written by him. The handwriting was confirmed to be that of Shalit.[36]

Gilad's father Noam Shalit met with former U.S. president Jimmy Carter during the latter's April 2008 visit to Israel. Carter plans to later visit Khaled Meshal of Hamas in Damascus. Noam Shalit said that the fact that Carter is not considered pro-Israel could be beneficial in securing his son's release.[37]

On 9 June 2008, it was reported that Hamas sent Gilad's family a third letter. The group had promised to send them a third letter after mediation from former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. The handwriting was confirmed to be that of Shalit.[38]

On 12 August 2008, Hamas noted that they are suspending talks on Shalit's release demanding a complete lifting of the Israeli siege. The decision has angered Egypt, a mediator for the release of Shalit. Hamas has criticized the Egyptians for linking the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Shalit's release, a condition which Hamas refuses to agree to.[39]

On 20 August 2008, in his briefing to the Security Council, the Under-Secretary-General of the UN appeared to link the decision to release 200 Palestinian prisoners to the case,[40] although the Hamas spokesman saw it as an attempt to strengthen Palestinian internal divisions by releasing only those loyal to the Fatah faction.

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Capture of Gilad Shalit