Jerusalem – Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit was taken captive by Hamas on June 25, 2006. Since that date, there has been no sign of life from Shalit. However, one year later, to the day, on June 25, 2007, an audiotaped recording of what is believed to be Gilad Shalit’s voice was released to the media in Gaza.
In the tape, the speaker, who identifies himself as “Corporal Gilad Shalit,” calls on the Israeli government to “take a greater interest in [him]” and to “accede to the mujahadeen’s demands,” with the mujahadeen in this case being identified as Katab al-Shahid Iz a Din al-Kassam. The Israeli news agency Ma’ariv reports that Hamas is currently demanding the release of no fewer than 1,400 Palestinian detainees in exchange for Shalit. While there have been no formal verification of the speaker’s identity, Noam Shalit, the father of the kidnapped soldier, said it sounded like his son. Conventional wisdom in Israel seems to be that the statements that were uttered on the tape were written initially in Arabic and were subsequently translated into Hebrew.
The reactions to the released recordings have been varied. The front page of Israel’s most widely-read newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, was filled almost entirely with a picture of Gilad Shalit with the accompanying text reading “bring him back.” Reporter Sima Kadmon cited the Shalits’ parental anguish and what the paper described as the state’s obligation toward its soldiers as peremptory arguments for the government to do “everything” to free Gilad Shalit. In fact, Shalit stole the headlines away from the Sharm el-Sheikh summit meeting that was held Monday among Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah of Jordan. Olmert pledged at Sharm el-Sheikh, reportedly surprising his fellow participants with his largesse, to release 250 Fatah convicts currently serving jail sentences in Israeli prisons.
A senior Israeli government security official said that the tape issued Monday with a statement by Gilad Shalit is authentic and was made recently. He said that the publication of the tape reflects Hamas’ weakness, and that the organization is taking responsibility for the health and safety of Gilad Shalit is an encouraging sign. However, the senior security official noted that those holding Shalit are members of the Popular Resistance Committees that has split from Hamas, and that Hamas Political Bureau Director Khaled Mashaal and deposed Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh do not know where Shalit is being held, nor are they capable of taking action regarding this affair. The senior security official said that Hamas hopes that if it obtains a prisoner exchange deal, the organization that is holding Shalit will be compelled to release him because of pressure that will be brought on them. The senior security official said a prisoner release today would serve Hamas’ interests and would bolster its status among the Palestinians.
Osama el-Mzeini, a Hamas leader in Gaza, said that the Egyptian security delegation will return to the Gaza Strip shortly, at which point it will become clear whether there are any new developments in the Gilad Shalit affair. He said that Hamas would no longer demonstrate flexibility in the matter, as it has up until this point. On Monday night, the Hamas el-Aksa TV station broadcast an interview with Gilad’s father, Noam. The interview had been taped about a month ago, at the station’s offices in A-Ram near Ramallah, and was broadcast for the first time last night, on the first anniversary of the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit.
Ilan Hamra, an expert in analyzing taped recordings, said that “it is clear that the statements made by Gilad Shalit were dictated by the people holding him. The recording was edited in at least three spots. In other words, the recording was made in segments, and only subsequently were they spliced together.”
The word “mujahadeen” was uttered in an inquisitive tone. Gilad was asking the person who was with him whether or not he had pronounced the word correctly. Later, one can hear on the tape words that are uttered by the person who is sitting opposite Gilad: “Now [look] at me,” in the context of turning his face to the camera. “The conclusion I draw is that the recording was also filmed, but Hamas chose to distribute only the audio recording.”
The syntax of the statement clearly showed that it was translated from Arabic into Hebrew by Hamas men, and they asked Gilad to read it. For instance, “the” was added before “Corporal Gilad Shalit” in the way one would add “el” in Arabic.
The following is an English translation of the text that was read by Gilad Shalit and recorded by his captors, a copy of which was released Monday to the media:
“I, the soldier Gilad son of Noam Shalit, am imprisoned by Katab al-Shahid Iz a Din al-Kassam. Mother and father, my sister and my brother, my comrades in the IDF, I send you from prison my regards and my longing for all of you.
“I have been through an entire year in prison and still my medical condition is deteriorating and I am in need of extended hospitalization. I regret the lack of interest shown by the Israeli government and the IDF in me and their failure to accede to the demands of Katab al-Kassam. It is clear that they must accede to those demands in order for me to be released already from prison. And particularly since I was on a military operation that stemmed from military orders and I wasn’t a drug dealer.
“And just like I have parents, a mother and a father, thousands of Palestinian prisoners have mothers and fathers to whom their sons must be returned. I have great hope that my government will take a greater interest in me and will accede to the mujahadeen’s demands. Corporal Gilad Shalit.”
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2007