by: Staff and JTA - Last updated: 2007-08-29
Israelis and Jews across the world have marked the 21st birthday of captive soldier Gilad Shalit. Supporters of Shalit held a rally in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, the sergeant's second birthday in Palestinian captivity.
Shalit, who is a cousin of music impresario Jonathan Shalit, was abducted in a June 25, 2006 cross-border raid by Hamas-led gunmen in the Gaza Strip. Two of his comrades were killed in the incident.
In the UK, the Board of Deputies issued a birthday message.
"It must be a terrifying and lonely experience to spend a second successive birthday in captivity, without any contact with family and friends," said Board of Deputies chief executive Jon Benjamin. "But Gilad and his family are in all our thoughts and prayers, particularly on his birthday."
His father, Noam, said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was not doing enough to recover his son from Hamas, which wants a prisoner exchange. "There are no serious negotiations, and to judge from the outcome, the situation is a clear and total failure," he told Israel Radio.
Olmert has signalled a willingness to bargain for Shalit's return but has ruled out the lopsided swap demands made by Hamas.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said Monday that a deal was almost clinched to trade Shalit for 350 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, but that it fell through over the types of prisoners the Olmert government would release. Israel has said it will only release prisoners not involved in killings.