Netanyahu writes to families of victims of Shalit-deal prisoners

(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote to family members of the victims of attacks perpetrated by some of the 1,027 prisoners to be released in return for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

In the letters issued Monday, Netanyahu tells the families that he understands their "negative feelings" toward the deal because of the death of his brother Jonathan, who was the sole casualty of the 1976 Israeli operation to free hostages at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda.

"In my many deliberations throughout the negotiations, you were always on my mind," he wrote, according to the Prime Minister’s Office. "The decision to release Gilad Shalit was one of the most difficult ones I have ever made. It’s difficult for me for the same reason it’s difficult for you, dear family members.

Dozens of those families and other protesters marched Monday morning to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, where a three-justice panel convened to hear petitions opposing the deal. The release of the Palestinian prisoners is scheduled to begin Tuesday; Shalit is to gain his freedom on the same day.

The petition was filed by the Almagor Terror Victims Assocation, which asked the court to cancel the prisoner swap deal. The association also asked the court to delay the releases to allow more time to study the list and make objections. Several families also have filed separate petitions against the release of particular prisoners.

Shalit’s father, Noam, also attended the proceedings and submitted his own response to the petitions, arguing that "any change in its delicate framework could torpedo the entire deal."

The Prime Minister’s Office also announced Monday that Gilad Shalit will be promoted to the rank of sergeant-major in time for his release, which is expected to come Tuesday. He was a corporal when he was captured in a cross-border raid in June 2006, and since then has been promoted twice.

 

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