Jerusalem – Ofer Dekel, appointed by the prime minister to conduct talks for the release of the kidnapped soldiers, left on Thursday for Egypt in order to resume the talks for the release of the Israeli POW, Gilad Shalit. He is expected to meet with Omar Suleiman, the director of Egyptian intelligence.

Last Tuesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Sharm el-Sheikh, where he met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian president promised Mr. Olmert that “Egypt is putting great effort into the release of Gilad Shalit.” Mr. Olmert asked Mr Mubarak to do everything he could to pressure Hamas into completing the deal, and the Egyptian president promised that his country would not open the Rafah crossing point until Staff Sgt. Shalit was released.

Israel Radio reported that over the next several days, a round of separate meetings is due to take place in Cairo between Israeli representatives and Hamas representatives with Egyptian officials in order to promote the deal.

Mitzpe Hila, Stff Sgt. Shalit’s home community, observed the second anniversary of his capture by Hamas with a rally, where Mr. Hen Arad, the brother of the captive MIA Israeli navigator Ron Arad, sharply criticized the behavior of the Israeli governments regarding MIAs throughout the years. Hen concluded his remarks as follows: “Our decision-makers treat the soldiers whom they sent like the last of the Caesars. Ron volunteered to fly not in order to be a gladiator, and Gilad did not join the Armored Corps in order to be a shahid [The Arabic term for “martyr”.. Dear Shalit family: don’t give up. Don’t let them sacrifice Gilad. It seems that our leaders hold nothing sacred.”

Staff Sgt. Shalit’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Aviva and Noam Shalit shook the hands of those who attended the rally, including Shlomo and Miki Goldwasser and Zvi Regev, parents of the MIAs from the northern border, who expressed hope that the deal for their sons’ release would also bear fruit. Mr. and Mrs. Yaakov and Tzipora Avitan, the parents of the late Adi Avitan, who was kidnapped and murdered by Hezbollah eight years ago, were also in attendance.

Mrs. Shalit held a water bottle in her hand, with her head drooped for much of the rally.

When she was about to ascend the speakers’ platform, she felt ill and asked her husband, Noam, to read what she had prepared.

“I want to thank, with all my heart, the family, the friends and all the citizens of Israel for their support and solidarity, for the help, the love and the warm embrace that we have received over these past two years,” Noam said on her behalf.

“Who would have believed that 731 days have passed and Gilad is still in a dank, dark pit, completely isolated? Who would have believed that 731 days have passed, and the prime minister, who has taken this matter under his full responsibility, has not reached an agreement to bring Gilad home? Gilad pays, and continues to pay, a price too heavy to bear, but when the government needs to fulfill its supreme moral obligation to a soldier, nothing here is taken for granted anymore. I call upon the prime minister: Release my son Gilad from this terrible captivity. Fulfill your obligation to the soldiers of the IDF!”

And then, at Mrs. Shalit’s request, all those in attendance closed their eyes for 30 seconds and stood in silence, imagining what Gilad goes through every single day of his captivity in Gaza.

David Barak, father of the late Lt. Hanan Barak, Gilad’s tank commander who was killed during the kidnapping, demanded that the politicians stop their chatter and act. “We don’t leave the wounded in the field no matter what the situation,” he said.

Vilnai: Crossing Points To Gaza To Stay Closed

“Israel will close all the crossing points along the Gaza Strip on Thursday again,” was the decision made Wednesday night in a meeting that took place in the office of Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai with IDF and GSS directors.

It appears that on Friday, there will be a partial opening of the crossing points for the entry of humanitarian cases through the Erez crossing. All the crossing points in the Gaza Strip were closed after Islamic Jihad fired three Kassam missiles at Sderot on Wednesday, violating the truce with Hamas.

One of the missiles that was fired at Sderot Wednesday night landed in the backyard of a city residence, the second in the city’s industrial zone and the third in an uninhabited area outside the city. Two people were lightly wounded by shrapnel, and one person suffered from shock. The wounded people were taken to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon for medical treatment.

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com

©The Bulletin 2008

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.