Amidst the euphoria and controversy surrounding the historic release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, militants have made an ominous warning.
According to reports, The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), a Palestinian militant group has vowed to abduct a “new Gilad Shalit” in order to force Israel to free the remaining 6,000 Palestinians still languishing in Israeli prisons.
We are going to capture another soldier and cleanse all the Israeli jails of our prisoners, said a masked spokesman, according to Daily Telegraph newspaper of the UK.
The PRC kidnapped Shalit, then a 19-year-old soldier, five years ago in Gaza. The fact that Hamas could gain the release of more than 1000 of its imprisoned compatriots for just one man would seem to indicate that Israeli responds only to force – instead of the moderate negotiations espoused by the Fatah faction of the Palestinians.
Indeed, according to the Telegraph, when Palestinian inmates were returned to Gaza City, thousands of people cheered and shouted The people want a new Gilad, the people want a new Gilad!
In Israel itself, the release of Shalit has been broadly welcomed. although a vocal minority believes that the government gave up too much for the release of just one man. Indeed, many of the former Palestinian prisoners were service multiple life sentences for mass murder.
Western leaders were unanimous in their praise of the prisoner swap.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement: I am full of admiration for the courage and fortitude which Sgt Shalit and his family have shown through his long, cruel and unjustified captivity.
However, William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said that Israel should be prepared to make even more concessions.
We believe Israel should be ready to make a more decisive offer than Israeli leaders have made in recent years on the peace process to give talks a chance of success, he said, suggesting, among other things, that Israel end or relaxes its blockade of the Gaza Strip.