Protest on both sides of fence: Hundreds of demonstrators from all over the country began blocking the Karni, Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings on the Gaza Strip border on Tuesday morning, in protest of the fact that Gilad Shalit has been held by Hamas
for three years and in a demand for a sign of life from the Israeli soldier.
Protestors were also expected to arrive to the Palestinian side of the border and to call for an end to the siege on Gaza and for a solution to the Shalit affair.
On the Israeli side, the protestors planned to prevent the transfer of goods into the Strip. Dudu Gilboa, chairman of the People in Blue and White organization, said that the activists were blocking the crossings "in the hopes that this will send a message to the other side, that without a sign of life from Gilad we will only intensify our activities."
The Palestinian protestors, on the other hand, are calling on Israel to open the crossings. "Shalit is one prisoner, but the lives of so many people are being run around him, and this blockade cannot continue," said Sami Abed, a Palestinian journalist who organized the protest.
Protestors at crossing (Photo: Tsafrir Abayov)
Yael Yitzhaki, one of the Israeli protestors, said, "We are not giving up although three years have already past. Our first and most important goal is to show that we have not forgotten, and to remind those who make the decision on both sides that it's time to make progress."
Gilboa explained that the protestors' next step would be to block Israeli jails in order to stop Palestinian prisoners' family visits. "Unfortunately, we have already realized that nothing happens in this country without force," he said.
The protestors were joined in the afternoon hours by the kidnapped soldier's father, Noam Shalit, who said that "the nation has had enough of this situation. The people want Gilad back and find it unacceptable that he has been in Hamas captivity for three years now."
Addressing the issue of the closed crossings, Shalit said that "ever since the kidnapping, people are simply paying the price. Children and women who are uninvolved – they are paying the price, not Hamas."
Most of the truck drivers transporting food and goods to the Gaza Strip expressed their support for the protestors and sat waiting at the entrance to the roadblock.
Natan Rosenberg, one of the truck drivers at Kerem Shalom, said, "I fully support the strike, even if they fire me. I know this demonstration won't really help, but it's important to protest."
Truck driver Oded Tal voiced a different opinion. "I am all for the cause, but I think this demonstration is unnecessary. It won't help anyway," he said.
The Palestinian rally was initiated by Sami Abed, who heard about the Israeli protest organized by Yoel Marshak. According to Abed, the demand to keep the crossings closed until the Shalit affair is solved is unfair and inhumane.
"We also want the Shalit affair to end and the siege on the Strip to be lifted. People say they cannot live like this for hundreds of years more," he said, adding that the blockade was "a crime against Palestinian children."
He stressed, however, that the protestors would not discuss the number of prisoners slated to be released as part of an exchange deal between Israel
According to Abed, the main question is "whether the political echelon is willing to end this affair."
He added, "In our demonstration we call on the world to pressure Israel into lifting the siege, and are urging an operation which will lead to a solution to the Shalit affair. The current situation cannot continue. We all want to see this Shalit affair end."
Gilad Shalit was kidnapped
into the Gaza Strip 1,094 days ago.
Ali Waked contributed to this report