Home > Gaza, Israel > In France, thousands call for release of kidnapped Israeli soldier

In France, thousands call for release of kidnapped Israeli soldier

(WJC)–At a rally in Paris, up to 10,000 people called for the release of Israeli soldier Gild Shalit, held captive in the Gaza Strip by Hamas since June 2006. Several Jewish organizations and France’s Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim had called a rally in support for Shalit, who is also a French citizen, at a square in central Paris. The protestors held up banners reading “Freedom for Gilad Shalit”, “Hamas are terrorist Iran accomplices” and “Defending Israel is defending democracy”.

The protest was organized by the umbrella organization of French Jews, CRIF. Speakers on stage condemned Hamas and urged the release of Shalit, 23, who was captured on 25 June 2006 by Hamas and two smaller armed groups in a deadly cross-border raid. He is believed to be held in a secret location in the Gaza Strip. Speaking at the event, CRIF President Richard Prasquier said: “We urge the French government, which supported the easing of the Gaza blockade, to call for Gilad’s release. De-legitimizing Israel is de-legitimizing part of who we are, and we won’t support that.”

Politicians from across the political spectrum spoke at the event. One of them, Paris Deputy Mayor Anne Hidalgo, said that City Council had decided to grant Shalit honorary citizenship of the city. “This is a symbolic act that will raise awareness and bring results on the ground,” she said.

The rally was also attended by representatives of France’s black citizen federation, Armenian friends of Israel, and about 500 pro-Israel Christians. Other demonstrations took place in cities across the country. In the southern city of Nice, some 340 people took part in a rally, according to police.

Meanwhile, Hamas has denied repeated requests by the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit the kidnapped IDF soldier in Gaza. “One of our main achievements is that we have been able to visit nearly everyone detained in connection to this conflict, with the exception of Gilad Shalit,” Pierre Dorbes, deputy head of the ICRC in Israel and the Occupied Territories, told ‘Haaretz’, adding that he felt talks to free Shalit are deadlocked.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

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