GAZA CITY (AFP) – The armed wing of the Islamist Hamas movement on Sunday broadcast a grim cartoon warning Israel over the fate of the captured soldier for whom it has demanded hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.
The three-minute three-dimensional cartoon depicts the father of captured soldier Gilad Shalit visibly aging as he walks through empty city streets past billboards of former and future Israeli leaders vowing to free his son.
In the end the soldier is shown returned in a flag-draped coffin as part of a prisoner exchange, just before his father, Noam Shalit, wakes up from the dream and realises there is still time to bring his son back alive.
Messages accompanying the cartoon warn that if Israel does not reach a prisoner exchange deal, Shalit will meet the fate of Ron Arad, an Israeli pilot who went missing when he flew a mission over southern Lebanon in 1986.
“We warn Zionist society that the soldier held captive by the Qassam Brigades (Hamas’s armed wing) and other factions will meet the same fate as the Zionist pilot Ron Arad who vanished without a trace,” the video said.
“If Zionist society wants Shalit to be returned safely, its government must pay the price by releasing Palestinian prisoners,” it said.
The cartoon was aired on the Qassam Brigades’ official website.
Hamas has blamed Israel for the breakdown of talks, mediated by Egypt and a German negotiator, aimed at swapping Shalit for hundreds of Palestinians jailed in Israel, including several top militants.
Shalit, now 23, was captured in June 2006 by Hamas and two smaller armed groups in a deadly cross-border raid, and is believed to be held in a secret location somewhere in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Israel has said it is still waiting for a response from Hamas after handing an offer for a prisoner swap to mediators in December.
Israel is reportedly prepared to release around 450 prisoners in exchange for Shalit, but has balked at releasing some high-profile prisoners and said some freed prisoners from the West Bank must go to Gaza or be exiled overseas.