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Captive soldier’s parents ask court to stop truce

The parents of an Israeli soldier held by Hamas-allied militants petitioned Israel's supreme court Saturday to block a truce deal with the militant group so long as their son remains in captivity.
Cpl. Gilad Schalit, seen at age 19Anonymous / Schalit family via AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The parents of an Israeli soldier held by Hamas-allied militants petitioned Israel's supreme court Saturday to block a truce deal with the militant group so long as their son remains in captivity.

Noam and Aviva Schalit petitioned the court on behalf of their son Gilad, claiming that part of the deal included opening the Gaza Strip's crossings. They said this would allow their son's captors to smuggle him out and harm efforts to free him.

As part of their petition, the Schalits published a handwritten letter, penned by their son, which was delivered to the family two weeks ago by representatives of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Gilad Schalit was abducted near the Gaza border two years ago. He has not been seen since, but a recording of his voice and two previous letters he wrote have been released.

In the latest letter, dated "June 2008," Schalit wrote his parents that he is suffering from medical and psychological difficulties, as well as depression.

"I still think and dream about the day I will be released and see you again. I still have a hope that that day is near, but I know it does not depend on me or on you," he wrote. "I ask the government not to neglect the negotiations for my release."

Hamas handed the letter over as part of a promise its leader, Khaled Mashaal, gave Carter during a meeting in Damascus in April.

Interpreting a son's wish
In the petition, Schalit's parents say they interpret the last sentence as their son's wish for them to act on his behalf.

Gilad Schalit's name is included on the petition, filed against the government of Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

"We understand the pain that the Schalit family is experiencing during this difficult time and we have nothing but respect for them," Israeli government spokesman David Baker said in response.

An Egyptian-mediated truce in Gaza took effect Thursday, halting daily Palestinian rocket attacks against southern Israeli towns and communities and Israeli counter raids and airstrikes against Hamas militants in Gaza.

The six-month deal is meant to end attacks that have killed more than 400 Palestinians and seven Israelis since the Islamic Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip a year ago, and pave the way toward wider-reaching agreements.

Hamas expects Israel to also ease its yearlong blockade on Gaza and open the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

His release isn't part of deal
That's exactly what Schalit's parents fear. The petition demanded that the government explain, within 48 hours, why Schalit's release was not part of the deal. It calls the decision "extremely unreasonable."

The Schalits have largely remained quiet the past two years so not to interfere with the ongoing negotiations to free their son. They have recently become increasingly critical about the government's handling of the affair and have lashed out at Olmert and other leaders.

A poll in the Yediot Ahronot daily published Friday found that most Israelis agree with the family, with 78 percent thinking the truce deal should have been made contingent on Schalit's release.

Israel's chief negotiator on the prisoner issue is due in Egypt on Tuesday, the same day Olmert travels there for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The petition concludes with Schalit's parents invoking Israeli airman Ron Arad, who was abducted in Lebanon in 1986 and whose fate remains unknown. They encouraged the government not to repeat its mistakes and allow another Israeli soldier to languish in captivity.

"When it comes to Gilad Schalit — it is not too late," the petition reads.