Thousands of Israelis join protest march for captive soldier

14:28, June 28, 2010      

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Thousands of supporters take part in a solemn protest march from their hometown Mitzpe Hila to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to mark four years since Israeli soldier Shalit was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Thousands of Israelis on Sunday took part in a protest march for the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held captive by the Islamic resistance movement Hamas for four years.

Among the participants are Shalit's parents, and Israeli national sports, culture, media and entertainment figures. Protestors were waving slogans calling for the government to step up negotiation for Shalit's return.

The campaign, which will last for about 10 days, began at the captured soldier's family home in northern Israel and will end at the Prime Minister's official residence in Jerusalem.

The activists on Sunday afternoon reached their first stop, the high school where Shalit studied before joining the Israel Defense Force.

Last Friday is the fourth anniversary of Shalit's captive.

The soldier was captured by the Gaza-based Hamas in late June 2006, a couple of weeks before the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War. Since then, his family has undertaken a campaign to bring about his release, which included personal appeals to world leaders.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now facing increasing public pressure to step up negotiations for the release of Shalit.

Six leading Israeli academics and public figures met in recent days and sent Netanyahu a joint letter, asking him to "do all that is possible" for the safe release of the soldier.

The Israeli government, on its part, claimed that it has spared no efforts and resources in its negotiations with the soldier's captors.

"The Government and the security services are continuing to make constant and varied - open and secret - efforts to bring Gilad Shalit back home safe and sound," Netanyahu said during a cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Israel has so far agreed to release hundreds of Palestinians held in Israel prisons in exchange for the soldier. Hamas said that number is not enough. The Israeli public is growing restless as time lingers on.
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