Gaza protest displays caged Shalit effigy
Relatives of Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israel set up protest tent in Gaza with effigy of kidnapped soldier as centerpiece. Family members waved Hebrew banners vowing Shalit will not be released until their sons are. Meanwhile Hamas warns: 'Shalit will become the second Ron Arad'
Relatives of Palestinian security prisoners held in Israel outside Gaza's Ministry for Prisoner Affairs on Sunday, demanding their loved ones immediate release.
Family members held up framed pictures of their jailed sons, and gestured towards the protest's chief attraction, an effigy of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Dressed in IDF fatigues, the life-sized doll fitted with
a picture of Shalit's face was placed in a cage alongside signs written in Hebrew.
The messages, aimed at the Israeli public, warned that Shalit 'won't be the only one' unless all Palestinian prisoners are released, and that he would never be returned 'so long as our prisoners are in jail.'
Speaking to Ynet, Hamas officials warned once again that Shalit "is on his way to becoming the second Ron Arad."
Hamas: No compromise
Hamas officials accuse Israel of misleading all sides involved in the negotiations by trying to act as though it was serious about closing a deal.
"But when the moment of truth came, the Israelis retreated and left Shalit behind to become the second Ron Arad. Because beyond talking about a true desire to bring him back to his family, the Israeli government is doing nothing," they said.
The sources said that the responses Hamas has been getting from the prisoners' families has only strengthened its position: "We're under pressure not to compromise. Israel offered 325 names out of our list of 450, with 90 of those to be exiled abroad. This is not a serious deal. Our public and the prisoners' families would not forgive us for such a mediocre deal, one that would mean that 125 of our brothers would stay in Israel's jails until their last day and 90 would be exiled. We won't let that happen."
Mothers of Palestinian prisoners in protest tent (Photo: AP)
Hamas says it would be willing to continue the negotiations with the future Netanyahu government. "Our demands are clear, we're not in a hurry. We promised to free the big prisoners, those who without a deal will never be released, and we intend to fulfill this vow that we gave before Allah and the prisoners and their families."
In an interview published on Sunday by the Italian 'La Republicca,' Hamas' exiled politburo chief, Khaled Mashaal, accuses Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of not wanting to free the Palestinian prisoners.
"The conditions for an agreement have been known for three years, and the Egyptians know them, too," Mashaal told the Italian newspaper. "They are the release of 1,000 Palestinians in two stages."
Mashaal's deputy, Moussa Abu Marzouk, said in an interview with Egyptian media on Saturday that his organization wants to see the deal completed soon. Abu Marzouk said that there had been genuine progress in the talks over Shalit's release. He too criticized Olmert.