Demonstrators mark Shalit’s 24th birthday


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Thousands of demonstrators marked Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit’s fifth birthday in captivity.

During a protest Saturday night across the street from the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, the crowd marked Shalit’s 24th birthday.

His mother, Aviva Shalit, addressed the crowd and her son.

"Gilad my beloved son, today is your birthday," she said. "Once again I did not buy you a present this year, I didn’t bake a cake, you won’t be able to blow out the candles. I miss you more every day. I will make one wish in your name: that your candle not be extinguished, that you remain healthy in your body and soul. Sorry for not freeing you yet."

She called on the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, to speak out publicly on behalf of her son as she has on the possible deportation of foreign workers’ children. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will invite the Shalit family for a meeting after he returns from peace talks in Washington later this week, his office said.

The Shalit family has been living in a protest tent across from the prime minister’s residence for the past six weeks.  

Shalit was captured in a cross-border raid in June 2006 and reportedly is being held by Hamas in Gaza.

Aviva Shalit had invited the wives of lawmakers and government ministers to join the rally, though none reportedly participated.

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