Israel comes to partial standstill to protest soldier's captivity

Israel comes to partial standstill to protest soldier's captivity

Azerbaijan, Baku, March 15 /Trend/

Israelis halted their activities for five minutes Tuesday, to mark five years since an Israeli soldier has been held captive in Gaza by the radical Islamist Hamas movement, dpa reported.

The soldier, Gilad Shalit, now 24, was captured in a June 2006 raid on an Israeli army base outside the strip led by Hamas.

The movement has since held negotiations with successive Israeli governments on a prisoners exchange, but these have so far come to nothing.

An Israeli businessman initiated the action and called on all Israelis to stop what they were doing at 11 am Tuesday.

In central Tel Aviv, drivers could be seen pulling over their cars and standing on the road outside their vehicles.

A few cars and scooters however kept going.

Israeli President Shimon Peres, joining the initiative, paused a speech in the southern resort of Eilat for five minutes, while in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, a bell rang and lawmakers too interrupted their committees' debates.

At least hundreds of thousands of Israelis were estimated to have taken part in the action.

Some 5,640 Palestinians are currently held in Israeli prisons, on charges of militant activity.

In exchange for Shalit, Hamas has demanded the release of some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including 450 names handpicked by the movement ruling Gaza.

But the indirect negotiations on a swap have broken down, as Hamas insists that several hardcore militants, involved in some of the worst suicide attacks in Israel, are included on the list, and as Israel insists that a number of to-be-freed prisoners do not return to their homes in the West Bank and Gaza, but rather be deported abroad.

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