ISRAEL: Hamas releases animated video regarding captured soldier Gilad Shalit
On Sunday morning, Hamas announced it was going to make an important statement to the Israeli public. It turned out to be an animated clip depicting Noam Shalit, the father of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, wandering hopeless in through the streets, an aged man clutching his son's picture and daydreaming his son's return while replaying in his head promises made by several prime ministers to bring his son back. The clip hints at Gilad Shalit's return in a coffin -- or not at all, like Ron Arad, an Israeli airman missing since 1986, his fate unknown. The soundtrack is of Shalit's voice, taken from material previously released by his captors.
Noam Shalit called the video psychological warfare, saying it was unfortunate that Hamas prefers its political interests to those of the people, postponing both the release of prisoners as well as Gaza's extrication from the clampdown that followed his son's abduction. A statement issued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office accused Hamas of cynical use of the Shalit family's emotions.
Two days earlier, Israel allowed the 3-year-old daughter of Hamas official Fathi Hamad into Israel for urgent medical treatment at Barzilai hospital before being flown to Jordan for further treatment. The video, said the prime minister's statement, was another "deplorable action by Hamas" designed to help its leadership avoid decision on the German-mediated proposal that could bring an immediate resolution.
No one quite knows where things stand in the negotiations. The German mediator evidently conducted another round of talks a couple of weeks ago, even more quietly than usual. The last publicly reported exchange of offers and counter-offers between Israel and Hamas took place around four months ago but despite considerable progress reported, there's no deal and the sides blame each other for the stalemate. The mediator too is losing his patience, reports say.
Israel has tried to bargain with Hamas, who is playing for broke by insisting on the full number of prisoners it has been demanding in return for the release of Gilad Shalit, who was seized from his military outpost during a cross-border attack in June 2006. Hamas has often given an air of having all the time in the world while Israel stews, but a recent flurry of threats to abduct more Israelis and maybe the clip too suggest Hamas isn't comfortable with the standstill.
Many feel the clip was a low blow and the Israeli media was in two minds about broadcasting it. TV channel 1, Israel's public broadcast, decided not to air it. Motti Shklar, director of Israel's Broadcast Authority, explained on the radio that it was "wrong to let them use us" like this. Roni Daniel, military reporter for the commercial Channel 2, said it was a journalistic error to refrain from broadcasting the video. We're not collaborating with Hamas by showing it, he said, "we're exposing it."
-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem
Video: Hamas on Sunday released an animated video depicting Noam Shalit and his son, captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Credit: YouTube
Photo: A screen shot from the video. Credit: Los Angeles Times