Hundreds of people marched from the Yad Mordechai Junction to the Erez Crossing on Sunday where a rally marking captive soldier Gilad Shalit's 25th birthday was held.
The event was attended by Gilad's father Noam Shalit, Rabbi Yisrael Lau, MKs Shaul Mofaz, Miri Regev and Tzipi Hotovely as well as singers Amir Benayoun, David D'Or and Hagit Yasou.
- 'Give Gilad his life back for his birthday'
- Report: Shalit talks to resume next week
- 200 people hold Shabbat prayer at Shalit tent
- Noam and Aviva Shalit's letter to Gilad
In his speech Noam Shalit slammed Israeli leaders for failing to "handle calculated risks."
"I hope we shall all gather soon to greet Gilad here at the Erez Crossing and invite all the residents of the Gaza vicinity communities and the State of Israel," he said.
Orna Shimoni, a member of the Shalit campaign said: "Today I am not afraid to convey the message of death with a loud cry: Gilad will die if we don't bring him back immediately."
'Endorse anti-Hamas campaign'
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), who opposes a prisoner exchange deal, said in her speech: "The road to bringing Shalit back home includes halting funds to Hamas in Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority." She was interrupted by members of the crowd after she declared she opposes a swap deal. "Whoever truly wants to see Gilad back should endorse the national campaign against Hamas rule."
She stressed that the confinement conditions of Hamas prisoners, "who enjoy a five-star hotel accommodation" should be aggravated.
Noam Shalit addressed her statements, saying he agreed with her that the government has much more to do "but all that should have been done five years ago." He noted that had the government done what the MK suggested five years ago "Gilad might have been home already."
Hof Ashkelon Council head Yair Farjoun spoke in Arabic, and called on Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to release Gilad. "A Palestinian state cannot be built on the back of a boy. Gilad is not an asset to a Palestinian state, he's an asset to his parents and I am willing to serve as mediator between us and Hamas."
Rabbi Yirsael Lau also volunteered his services to become "the bargaining chip" instead of Shalit. "Let them take me, put me in his place and negotiate."
Earlier on Sunday, London-based newspaper al-Hayat reported that negotiations for Shalit's release will resume in the coming week.
According to the report, Egyptian Intelligence Minister Murad Muwafi met with Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Mashaal during a recent visit to Mecca, and the two discussed the possibility of striking a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas.
Direct negotiations to that effect are set to resume after the Eid al-Fitr holiday, i.e. – next week.
Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozi sent the Shalit family a letter he wrote in honor of Gilad's 25th birthday.