Hamas hopes Shalit cartoon to pressurize Israel into prisoners swap

08:21, April 26, 2010      

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A three-dimensional cartoon broadcast by the Islamist Hamas movement on Sunday is aimed at pressuring Israel into exchanging hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Shalit held captive in Gaza for almost four years, analysts said.

The three-minute video is meant to send the message that Shalit, who was captured near Gaza in 2006, might go missing forever as Israeli Air Force officer Ron Arad who has been missing since 1986 when his fighter crashed in southern Lebanon.

The animated cartoon was "a sentimental propaganda campaign" aimed at generating public pressure on the Israeli government to seal a prisoners exchange deal with Hamas, analysts said.

Broadcasting the video "is like throwing a stone in stagnant water," said Mukhaimar Abu Sa'da, political science lecturer at Gaza's Al-Azhar University.

"It is clear that Hamas wants to revive this file by inciting the Israeli public in a bid to build pressure on the Israeli government for concessions," he added.

The video, which lasts three minutes and 16 seconds, shows Shalit's father, Noam, walking aimlessly in a gloomy weather before picking up a newspaper that shocked him by its front-page announcement for an award to free his son.

The award offers 50 million U.S. dollars to anybody providing information about Shalit's whereabouts and a lesser amount, 10 million, on information about Ron Arad.

The cartoon, which was released on the website of Hamas armed wing, shows that Noam finally receives his son Shalit in a flag- draped coffin as part of a prisoners exchange.

"Using sad background music and animation is a way to increase the psychological effects on the Israeli people," Abu Sa'da said. Given the current deadlock, Hamas is trying to say that Shalit's father would grow older "and his son will remain in captivity for a long time."

In the movie, Noam passes by the headquarters of a new Israeli ministry for missing and prisoners' affairs, an indication that Hamas is going to kidnap more Israelis.

Saleh al-Na'ami, a Palestinian journalist closely following the Israeli politics, said the animated cartoon is a new way of recruiting multimedia "in delivering a message to the Israeli society away from weapons and fiery statements."

In July, Hamas released its first cartoon film about Shalit, showing him debating with a son of a Palestinian prisoners.

Al-Na'ami said that these videos "would leave deep psychological traces in the Israeli community," adding that "any Israeli family has a son serving in the army might face the same fate as Shalit."

The video comes at a time where Shalit's supporters stepped up their campaigns calling for an immediate release of the soldier, including protests and advertisements in international media.

Hamas wants Israel to free up to 1,000 Arab and Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit. Egypt had mediated between Israel and Hamas since Shalit's capture in a cross-border raid near Gaza but failed to bridge the gap between the concerned parties.

Last year, Germany led an extensive round of mediation efforts to broker the swap, but there is still no signs of progress.

Meanwhile, Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, said it was the rotating Israeli governments that blocked progress in Shalit's talks.

The video shows Israeli leaders, including former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, all promised to work on freeing Shalit.

The current government, led by Netanyahu, "following the same way of its predecessors: they are betting on time or on concessions by Shalit's captors," Barhoum said, emphasizing that the captors "would never change their demands."

The video sparked angry reactions from Israel. "This is another cowardly action by Hamas aimed at helping its leadership avoid making a decision about the recent mediation proposal," Netanyahu' s office said in a statement.

Shalit's father, speaking to Israel's Radio, said that it is better for Hamas to pay attention to its prisoners in the Israeli jails rather than making movies, describing what he called psychological warfare against his family as shame.

Source:Xinhua

(Editor:梁军)

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