Noam Shalit, the father of kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit called on his son’s abductors Friday morning to provide him with a sign of life from Gilad, “so I can know he is safe and sound.”
“This is a humane thing that must be done,” he added.
Addressing the involvement of Egyptian President Mubarak in the affair, Shalit said: “We welcome the initiative of President Mubarak and we want to thank him personally. With that, time is not working on our side and I suppose that the decision makers also know that.”
Noam Shalit. Hopeful (Photo: Danny Dagan)
Turning to his son with a broken voice, Noam said: “Gilad, if you hear me be strong like you know how to be, be patient, and don’t lose hope.”
A friend of the family of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit expressed hope following the involvement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in efforts to free the Israeli captive.
“The knowledge that President Mubarak has gotten into the thick of things has instilled driving force and given us a tangible feeling that Gilad is a live and well,” Ilana Levi-Zarihan, a neighbor and friend of the Shalit family told Ynet Friday morning.
During the morning hours, and IDF officer responsible for soldiers affected by hostile action arrived at the Shalit home. The officer has been in continuous touch with the family since the kidnapping.
He told Corporal Shalit’s parents, Noam and Aviva, that the Egyptian President has become involved, and that he is making the utmost effort to bring about Gilad’s release.
He also briefed the family on the suspension of the army operation so far. “We heard from him that President Mubarak took a step, this instills new hope in us, especially since six days have passed, and this morning again we rise to a terrible routine,” Levi-Zarihan said.
She added that “every step like this is welcome, especially when a figure such as the president of Egypt is involved. We are certainly filled with big hope that Gilad is alive and well and will return to us.”
Ilana said that the family members themselves welcomed the news and that they were undergoing difficult days.
“We thought that the matter would be resolved within 48 hours, here we are, its Friday already. But on the other hand, to rise in the morning with non-threatening news give rise to hopes that things will resolves themselves for the better.”
Responding to the question of whether the Shalit family is planning to demand a release of Palestinian prisoners if and when negotiations with Mubarak are held, Ilana answered: “The family is not involved in prisoner release, she directs this responsibility to the government of Israel which it trusts.”
Meanwhile, Israel denies the claim made in the name of the Egyptian president in the al-Aharam newspaper, according to which it did not answer conditions set by Hamas for the release of the kidnapped soldier. The Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem also rejected the claim that Mubarak asked Israel to delay Operation Summer Rains.
Omar Suleiman on way to Gaza
Diplomatic contacts are being held behind the scenes, aimed at the release of Shalit. The talks are mainly being handled by the Egyptians, as well as French diplomats.
Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman is said to be arriving in Gaza Friday for continuing talks on the release of the soldier, after he will meet with Hamas politburo head in Damascus Khaled Mashaal.
In an interview with the al-Aharam newspaper published Friday, it was reported that a deal with Hamas was reached, but Israel rejected its terms.
According to Mubarak, “contacts with a number of Hamas leaders brought initial positive results. We reached an agreement for an automatic release of the soldier as soon as possible, in order to delay an escalation, but we have yet to reach an agreement with the Israeli side.”
Gilad's father, Noam Shalit (Photo: Hagai Aharon)
The Egyptian president added that he was investing all of his energy into talks, and is also working into the late night hours in an attempt to prevent a “real disaster that will ignite the entire area” as a result of an escalation in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
He called on all sides to speed up involvement in an attempt to bring about a peaceful solution.
Mubarak spoke with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and asked him not to hurry in an army operation and “to give added time to the
finding of a peaceful solution to the problem of the kidnapped soldier. Israel’s leaders promised, and I hope they stick to their promise, not to spill the blood of innocent civilians in a hasty IDF operation. Egypt warned Hamas leaders on the consequences of adopting extremist positions and urged them to stand by their commitments, in light of the dangers and difficulties facing the Palestinian people.”
Meanwhile, it has been decided to delay the entrance of IDF forces into northern Gaza. The entrance, planned for late Thursday night, was cancelled.
Ronny Sofer contributed to this report