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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gilad Shalit - Israeli Hostage in Gaza

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Gilad Shalit (Hebrew: גלעד שליט‎, born 28 August 1986) is an Israeli soldier who was captured on 25 June 2006 by Hamas in a cross-border raid. He was captured near the Kerem Shalom crossing (in Israel), and has been held as a prisoner in the Gaza Strip by Hamas since then.

Shalit, holding a rank of corporal in the IDF's Armor Corps at the time of his abduction, has since been promoted to staff sergeant.

He was the first Israeli soldier captured by Palestinian militants since Nachshon Wachsman in 1994. Shalit holds French citizenship, a fact that encouraged France and the European Union to be involved to some extent in efforts to release him.

Hamas has refused requests from the International Committee of the Red Cross to allow the ICRC to visit Shalit on the grounds that any such visit could betray the location where Shalit is being held. Several human rights organizations have stated that the terms and conditions of Shalit's detention are contrary to international humanitarian law. In exchange for his release, Hamas is demanding the release of all female and underage Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, as well as a further 1,000 prisoners, a number of which are convicted by Israeli courts on terrorism charges. There are currently around 8,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israel. The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, which released a report in September 2009, called for Shalit to be released.

International law

Since 2006, the Red Cross (ICRC) has repeatedly asked Hamas to allow visits by the ICRC to ascertain Shalit's conditions of detention and treatment, but Hamas refused the requests. An ICRC representative said that under international humanitarian law Shalit is entitled to regular and unconditional contacts with his family.[83] On 25 June 2007, the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem issued a statement saying "international humanitarian law absolutely prohibits taking and holding a person by force in order to compel the enemy to meet certain demands, while threatening to harm or kill the person if the demands are not met", and thus holding Shalit as a hostage to their demands is a war crime. B'Tselem also noted that denying access to ICRC visitations is also a violation of international law.[84] Israeli NGO Monitor said that Shalit's abductors breach several provisions of the Third Geneva Convention, e.g., the right to humane treatment (Art. 13); the right to have knowledge of a POW's location (Art. 23); and the right to unfettered access to the Red Cross (Art. 126). Human Rights Watch has also stated that Hamas authorities are obligated by the laws of war to allow Shalit to correspond with his family, and noted that three letters and a voice recording cannot be counted as regular correspondence. HRW has also called to receive visits from the ICRC and said that prolonged incommunicado detention of Shalit is cruel and inhumane and may amount to torture.

A U.N. fact-finding mission headed by Judge Richard Goldstone assigned to investigate the Gaza War, which released its report in September 2009, called for Shalit to be released. In June 2010, on the fourth anniversary of Shalit's capture, Human Rights Watch made a statement describing Hamas' treatment of Shalit as "cruel and inhuman" saying it illustrates the UN definition of torture and violates the international rules of war by prohibiting him from having contact with his family or visits from the Red Cross.