Middle East
Netanyahu meets Shalit's parents
Israeli PM says "millions of people" pushing for captured soldier's release.
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2010 17:12 GMT
Shalit's parents hope to pressure Israel to reach a prisoner swap deal with Hamas [Reuters]

The parents of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier being held in the Gaza Strip, have met briefly with Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister.

Noam and Aviva Shalit met Netanyahu on Friday following a 12-day march across Israel to press the prime minister to do more to secure their son's release.

They were joined on the march by thousands of supporters.

Netanyahu, recently back from a trip to the US, told the couple about his talks with US officials and promised to work towards Shalit's release.

"It's not just the tens of thousands of marchers who support you, but all the citizens of the state of Israel," Netanyahu told them. "There are also millions of people abroad who are with you, as are my wife and myself."

An aide to Netanyahu said the prime minister would hold longer talks with the couple next week.

Shalit's parents have set up camp outside Netanyahu's residence, and have vowed to stay there until their abducted son is freed.

Shalit was seized by Palestinian fighters in a cross-border raid in June 2006 and has been held in Gaza since.

Stalled swap

Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, wants hundreds of Palestinian prisoners freed in exchange for Shalit.

Swap talks broke down in December and have not resumed, with Israel and Hamas failing to agree on the terms of a deal. The idea of a prisoner swap is controversial: Some Israelis do not support the release of Palestinian prisoners, deeming it a security risk.

Sherine Tadros, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Jerusalem, said on Thursday that the message of the marchers was very clear: that Netanyahu's government needs to do more to secure his release.

"Last week Netanyahu said that Israel had gone as far as it is willing to go on a prisoner exchange deal and that the ball is in Hamas's court," Tadros said. "Hamas say there are thousands of Palestinian prisoners still inside Israeli jails and they will not compromise on a list of 450 names [of prisoners they want freed].

Netanyahu has said he will not make a deal "at any price," warning that certain prisoners could return to carry out attacks on Israelis if released.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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