Israeli activist says cleared by Shin Bet to visit Gaza PM

Published today (updated) 09/01/2011 18:43

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — An Israeli activist who plans to ask Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit said Sunday he has Israeli security approval for his mission.

Yoel Marshak told Ma’an Radio that Israel’s internal security department Shin Bet has given him permission to enter the Gaza Strip.

Marshak said he hoped to appeal to Haniyeh’s humanity, even if all solutions to release Shalit had been exhausted.

Shalit was captured by fighters in a cross-border raid in 2006. Hamas is demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel in exchange for Shalit’s freedom, but efforts to finalize the deal have so far failed.

“I feel that I have a duty, a role and responsibility towards Shalit and want to carry it out. It may help in ending Shalit’s continued suffering since 1659 days and return him home,” Marshak said.

The activist said he lives in Gevat Shalosh Kibbutz with his wife and four daughters. Asked his age, he said it was a secret.

Israel’s Channel 10 reported Sunday that Marshak planned to enter Gaza with a delegation of Palestinians from inside Israel.

The report added that sources in the committee working to release Shalit were not aware of Marshak’s plan, and said it was his personal initiative.

Marshak said he had no concerns about going to Gaza. “My life is not more valuable than Shalit’s,” he explained.

He said he did not have any initiatives to free Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The whereabouts of Palestinian detainees was known, they received food and visits from their family and the International Red Cross, he said.

However, Hamas does not allow the Red Cross to visit Shalit and his location is not known, the activist said.

Israel banned prisoners from Gaza from receiving family visits in an apparent act of collective punishment, illegal under international law.

Hamas has said it refuses to reveal Shalit’s whereabouts to the Red Cross for security reasons.

Shalit’s father Noam has accused Israel of abandoning his son. In 2010, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blocked a German-mediated prisoner swap deal, refusing to release Hamas leaders in exchange for Shalit.

Speaking at a Tel Aviv conference in late December, Noam Shalit said it appeared that Israeli leaders “prefer to deal with soldiers who come home in coffins, wrapped in Israeli flags, to the effort and risks required to bring them home alive,” the Israeli news site Ynet reported.

Maan News Agency: Israeli activist says cleared by Shin Bet to visit Gaza PM.