Thousands march through Tel Aviv in solidarity with soldier
Thousands of Israelis marched through Tel Aviv Monday in solidarity with an Israeli soldier held captive by the radical Islamist Hamas movement in Gaza, DPA reported.
The demonstrators made their way through cordoned-off streets and amid a large police presence to the city's central Rabin Square for a mass rally, chanting "we won't return without Gilad (Shalit)" and holding up signs urging the government to do more to secure his freedom.
The solidarity hike, which entered its ninth day Monday having set out from the Shalit family home village of Mitzpeh Hila in northern Israel last week, started out from a junction north of the city early Monday morning and passed by the Tel Aviv home of Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak.
Shalit was captured in a May 2006 cross border raid led by Hamas and two other militant groups on a southern Israeli military outpost near Gaza/ Hamas has demanded the release of some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for him.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday he was willing to free that number of militants from Israel's prisons, including 450 who appear on a list of names provided by Hamas.
But he vowed not to free several hardcore militants behind the worst attacks in Israeli history, and also conditioned the release of others still considered dangerous. Those should be banned from the West Bank, from where they could relatively easily infiltrate Israel and carry out more attacks, he said.