Noam and Aviva Shalit, the parents of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, petitioned the High Court of Justice on Saturday afternoon and demanded the border crossings between Israel and Gaza not be opened prior to their son's release or a guarantee his release is imminent.
In the petition, which was filed under their son's name as well, the couple claimed that opening the crossings would constitute a violation of commitments made to the family by the government as well as a divergence from the decision made by the Ministerial Defense Committee last week.
The petition also included Gilad's most recent letter from captivity – which was preceded by two others – was relayed by Hamas as part of the group's pledge to former US President Jimmy Carter.
Dated June 2008, the letter reads:
"Dear Mom and Dad,
My dear family, I miss you very much. Two long and difficult years have passed since we last parted and I was forced to begin living life as a captive. I continue to suffer medical and psychological difficulties and the depression that is part of this sort of life.
As in my previous letters, I sincerely hope your mental and physical wellbeing has not suffered since you began life without me. I still think and dream of the day I am freed and see you again, and still I keep the hope that that day is near, but I know it is not in your hands or in mine.
I call on the government not to neglect the negotiations for my release and direct its efforts only on the release of the soldiers in Lebanon."
Deal stuck over 30 names
Meanwhile the London-based 'al-Sharq al-Awsat' reported on Saturday that Israel's refusal to release 30 prisoners is the only remaining point of contention in the negotiations to free Shalit.
According to the report, Israel and Hamas have already agreed on the price for Shalit's release – 450 Palestinian prisoners deemed of 'a high quality' by Hamas (i.e. prisoners with blood on their hands as well as prisoners who are infirm, female or underage).
However the list of names Hamas is insisting on contains some 30 names which Israel is so far refusing to consider setting free.
The details of the actual exchange have also been agreed upon. The first stage will see Israel release 350 prisoners while Hamas transfers Shalit to Egyptian custody. The second stage of the exchange will then call for Israel to release 100 additional prisoners and, in return, receive Shalit.
Olmert: We respect Shalits - will answer them in court
"The opening of the Rafah crossing is tied to the release of Gilad Shalit," the State is reportedly expected to respond to the petition.
A preliminary hearing on the matter has been set for Sunday at 10:00 am.
Officials in Jerusalem clarified that the crossings discussed in the petition are already open and had never been closed: "What we're talking about is increasing the flow of goods through them, not reopening them. Either way, his release remains at the top of our priorities, and this is evident in the decision to renew the negotiations for his release through Egypt, which will commence with the departure of the prime minister's special envoy, Ofer Dekel, to Cairo.
"Promoting the release of the soldier is part of the ceasefire agreement, and as was agreed, it will be discussed alongside talks to reopen the Rafah crossing."
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office issued a response saying that the State would respond to the claims in its letter of defense, in which details would be provided regarding the cabinet's decisions, what was communicated to the family and how the two were indeed interlinked but did not contradict each other.
"Either way, we respect the Shalit family. No one here has any intentions of launching a legal battle. The Israeli government has and is working tirelessly to free the kidnapped soldier.
Meanwhile Olmert's appointed envoy for MIA affairs, Dekel, will leave for Cairo separate from the prime minister. Olmert's office was unable to provide an exact date or time for the visit between Dekel and the
The points of contention are not with the Shalit family or with Egypt, said senior State officials.
"The controversy remains Hamas' demand to release 450 prisoners, the majority of which have blood on their hands. These are the worst possible terrorists, including those involved in the Park Hotel suicide bombing, the bombings of buses in Jerusalem, Hamas leaders in the West Bank and Gaza."
Roni Sofer contributed to this report