Noam Shalit, father of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, said at a press conference in Paris Thursday that "the Israeli government is prepared to give a lot, but Hamas representatives in Damascus is intentionally preventing the prisoner swap."
"Gilad, I hope to light the first candle of Hanukkah with you," said Shalit at the end of a round of meetings the kidnapped soldiers' families held in Europe.
The families of captive soldiers Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev visited Europe this week to advance the abductees release through diplomatic efforts led by the EU foreign ministers.
During the press conference Noam Shalit said, “I hope the European leaders will be able to promote my son’s return,” adding that he has no new information on a possible prisoner exchange deal.
“Gilad, hang on, we will continue to fight for your release, as well as that of Udi (Ehud) and Eldad.”
Following the successful meetings in Europe and the mass rally in Brussels Wednesday, the families left for Paris, where they met with a number of top officials, including French Senate President Christian Poncelet, who said the responsibility for the soldiers’ release lies with Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority. Poncelet said he would personally work toward advancing the issue.
The families later met with Paris Archbishop Armand André Vingt-Trois. During the meeting, the father of Ehud Goldwasser’s wife, Karnit, said, “We are before Christmas and Hannukah now, a special time for brotherhood and solidarity. We turn to you for help on an issue that is of interest to people of all religions who value humanism and human rights.
The archbishop responded by saying that he sympathizes with the families’ pain, and criticized Hizbullah and Lebanon for ‘not adhering to the basic international regulations that obligate providing information on the captives’ condition.’
The families also met with former French Prime Minister Eduard Balladur, who is known for having special relations with senior Lebanese officials. He too promised to help in advancing the kidnapped soldiers’ release.
Former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Yehuda Lancry, who accompanied the families on their trip to Europe, said, “There is no doubt that turning to Europe has great potential for resolving the situation. Europe has the ability to advance Gilad Shalit’s release; it was party to the decision on UN Resolution 1701, which obligates the release of the boys, and it is a good thing that we reminded the European leaders of this obligation.”