Hamas releases Shalit audio tape

The captured Israeli soldier says his health is deteriorating.

Shalit was captured on June 25, 2006 [EPA]
Shalit was captured on June 25, 2006 [EPA]

“Mother, father, sisters, brothers, my friends in the Israeli army, I send you from my jail my regards and I miss you,” said a text in Arabic posted on the site.

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“I am sorry that the Israeli government has not shown more interest. It should meet the demands of my kidnappers so I can be released,” said the voice in Hebrew on the tape.

Those demands are the release of hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli jails in return for Shalit.

Shalit’s father, Noam, speaking to Israeli television, confirmed the voice was that of his son, a conscript now aged 20. He was promoted to sergeant from corporal while in captivity.

A video tape broadcast on Hamas’s Al-Aqsa television station showed footage of Shalit apparently being captured on June 25, being dragged by two fighters dressed in Israeli army uniforms pulling his T-shirt and running next to him.

David Chater, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Jerusalem, said he had spoken to Noam Shalit and that he said the recording was coerced in the same way a letter sent to him in September was.

This was the first sign of life from Shalit since that letter and Chater says the recording is both good news in the sense that his family can at least here his voice but also distressing given that his medical condition appears to be worsening.

Shalit, a tank gunner, was taken into the Gaza Strip by armed men who tunnelled across the border into Israel.


Kidnap anniversary


Hamas is one of three groups that claimed responsibility for the joint operation in which Shalit was seized and earlier said it would release the tape to mark the first anniversary of his capture.


Negotiations brokered by Egypt have been suspended in recent months amid Palestinian internal fighting in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas now rules alone.

“The soldier Shalit will never be freed before we see our prisoners freed and among us”

Abu Mujahed, spokesman of the Popular Resistance Committees

Chater says after the events of the past two weeks which have seen Hamas take control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah, the movement led by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, speculation into any new talks via Egyptian mediators is unnecessary.

“The sticking point has been the people that Hamas have been demanding be released and the sheer number of prisoners they want released in terms of an exchange for Shalit,” he said.

The release also coincides with the opening of a summit between Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and Abbas in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera’s Gaza correspondent in Gaza, says the release of the Shalit tape was timed to “steal some of the thunder” from that meeting.

“It [the tape release] is way of stating the obvious, that it [Hamas] is in control of Gaza and it is in control of the abducted Israeli soldier and that Hamas alone will have a say on whether he is released and on what terms,” Odeh said.


Osama al-Muzaini, a senior Hamas official, said: “We have been flexible in every possible way when it came to a swap deal, but the Israeli side was too weak to make a decision.


“The ball is now in the Israeli court.”


Abu Mujahed, spokesman of the Popular Resistance Committees that took part in last year’s cross-border raid, said: “The soldier Shalit will never be freed before we see our prisoners freed and among us”.


Abu Mujahed made the comment at a rally attended by dozens of families of Palestinians held by Israel.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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