"We are following the march organized by the Shalit family and the Shalit headquarters, and are calling on the organizers and the family and the public opinion in Israel: Pressure your government, because in the past four years we have proved that we have no intention of giving up on our demands," Popular Resistance Committees spokesman Abu Mujahed told Ynet on Friday, as Shalit was about to begin his fifth year in captivity.
"It's up to you whether Shalit is released or turns in Ron Arad No. 2," he added.
According to Abu Mujahed, "As far as we are concerned, this day symbolizes another great victory for the resistance over the glorious army and intelligence of the enemy.
"For the past years we have managed, once and again, to defeat all of the occupation's maneuvers and advanced military technological measures, as they try to reach Shalit or at least obtain some information. We have our ways and we mainly have a smart leadership, which has managed this case without any loopholes."
Abu Mujahed, who used last year's anniversary to marry and dedicate his wedding to the Palestinian prisoners, stressed that his remarks were not based on estimates.
"I am talking based on accurate and reliable information," he said. "I cannot provide any details, but once and again the resistance manages to thwart every Israeli attempt to reach Shalit. For four years the Strip has been besieged from the sea, from the land and from the air. The planes don't leave the Strip's skies for a minute, but the Israelis have failed in obtaining any information."
He went on to touch on another sensitive issue. "If the Israeli government's continues its conduct, Shalit will be close to becoming Ron Arad No. 2 than to return to this family. While the Israeli government stalled and played for time, and went back on understandings which nearly led to a deal, we – through the German mediators and others – have demonstrated appropriate flexibility.
"We have transferred letters from the soldier and shown him on video, but it appears that the enemy's government has failed to comprehend and internalize these messages and had no appreciation for our initiative."
'We'll kidnap additional soldiers'
Abu Mujahed is aware of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's stand, that Israel will not release the "heavy" prisoners to their homes. "My answer is simple," he clarifies. "Shalit will stay here with us and we'll continue to guard him as we have done in the past four years.
"If Israel fails to accept our conditions, I believe the Israeli government will be sorry – and I won't elaborate – but we won't spare any effort to release our prisoners, including the option of taking additional soldiers captive."
On the backdrop of recent reports that the prisoner exchange deal is "stuck" over 20 to 30 prisoners, Abu Mujahed clarified that the Palestinians must insist on these names at the price of delaying the release of more than 1,000 other prisoners.
"We don't look at this issue this way," he explained. "These people you are talking about are suffering in prison, and they were jailed for the same reason as the other prisoners who Israel agrees to release. These are prisoners who were sentenced to long prison terms, leaders and commanders of the resistance – and they include women. If they prisoners are not released in this deal, they will never be released. Therefore, this is deal is the only real chance to release them. This is the reason we are sticking to our stand."
Shalit's father in Rome, Thursday night (Photo: Reuters)
Abu Mujahed admits that there are some parts of the Palestinian public who view Shalit as a burden who only brought difficulties and suffering to the Palestinians in the Strip. "But I say with great certainty that those demanding that we show determination and stick to our demands and conditions are much bigger and significant the minority which says that he has only brought us suffering.
"The big and vast majority of the Palestinian public is demanding that we don't give up. The prisoners issue relates to the entire Palestinian public, so the only pressure on us is the one telling us, 'Don't give up.' And I say we won't give up."
As for the prime minister's recent statement that the government was "examining other ways" for Shalit's release, the PRC leader clarified, "If Netanyahu is hinting at a military option, I am saying to the enemy's public opinion that Netanyahu is trying to put you to sleep.
"There will be no other way to release Shalit apart from accepting our demands. The Israeli government is thwarting the deal, misleading the public opinion and causing the family to suffer. They're the ones responsible for Shalit being here for the past four years, and he may stay here much longer."