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House unanimously calls for Shalit’s release

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously called for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on the eve of the fourth anniversary of his capture by Hamas.

The bill passed June 24, initiated by U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), demands that "Hamas immediately and unconditionally release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit" and that the terrorist group allows "prompt access to the Israeli captives by competent medical personnel and representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross."

Gunmen affiliated with Hamas captured Shalit in a cross-border raid on June 25, 2006 after Israel had withdrawn from the territory, and have not allowed him Red Cross access.

"These allegedly religious militants are just thugs," Ackerman said of Hamas in his floor speech introducing the nonbinding resolution. "Nothing more. They hold up all kinds of banners and they champion all sorts of causes and they claim all kinds of mandates. But their real goal is power, and their true intention is the destruction of Israel."

A similar resolution is under consideration in the U.S. Senate.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for Jewish public policy groups, lobbied hard for the resolutions.

"It is past time for Hamas to stop playing games with this young man’s life and return him to his family and friends," the JCPA said in a statement.

Separately, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley also called for Shalit’s release.

"I ask today that Hamas do the right thing – what may be viewed as the difficult and unpopular thing among Palestinians – return Gilad Shalit to his family immediately and unconditionally," O’Malley, a Democrat, said in a statement last Friday. "I ask that President Obama and his Administration do everything in their power to expedite the return of Shalit to his family."

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