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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Gilad Shalit didn't go on hunger strike in Hamas captivity, father says

Published 17:18 05.12.11 Latest update 17:18 05.12.11

Noam Shalit says reason for son's deteriorated physical state was conditions of captivity, adding that sporting events were a source of positive ties with Hamas guards.

By Gili Izikovich

Gilad Shalit did not go on hunger strike while in Hamas captivity, Shalit's father Noam said in a media conference on Monday, adding a few more details concerning his son's 5-year imprisonment in the Gaza Strip.

Shalit was released in October in exchange for 477 Palestinian militants. Another 550 Palestinians jailed in Israel are to be released later this month, under the deal mediated by Egypt.

Noam Shalit - Tess Scheflan - 01122011 Reporters surrounding Noam Shalit in 2009.
Photo by: Tess Scheflan

On Sunday, Israeli media reports claimed that Shalit had ceased eating while a Hamas prisoner in order to pressure the militant group into negotiating his release. The abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier refused to eat, the report claimed, and consequently forced Hamas to take steps toward his release, out of fear for his life.

However speaking at the Eilat Journalism Conference on Sunday, Noam Shalit denied these reports, affirming, nonetheless, that his son's health was failing.

"He was in such a deteriorated physical state that they had to connect him to an IV. It wasn't the result of a hunger strike, but of an array of factors having to do with the conditions of his imprisonment, such as a years-long lack of daylight."

When asked whether Gilad spoke of his relationship with his Hamas captors, Noam Shalit said that his son was "in a process with officials asking those questions. He doesn't tell us much. When they're done with the process he'll probably tell us more."

"It wasn't a picnic in the first part, but the treatment bettered with time. In 2008 he received a radio and listened to Israel Radio, Army Radio, and Radio South. He knew of our activity, which goes to show the role of radio is far from over in the 21st century."

Shalit added that if there was any positive interaction he was aware of between Gilad and Hamas guards it was probably related to sports, "which was why he was able to take a look at sports games every once in a while."

"It's like the television we used to have 30 years ago, fuzzy," Shalit added.

Noam Shalit also said that in the second part of his imprisonment, in which he was better treated, Gilad ate Middle Eastern food, "hummus, pita, sometimes chicken," and that he conversed with his captors in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.

Shalit also spoke of his first meeting with his son, responding to what some considered to be a less than warm encounter.

"My first meeting with him was supposed to be off camera, and I breached protocol. He arrived accompanied by several bodyguards, the prime minister, the defense minister, so I didn’t feel free to leap into his arms and break into tears."

"He was also quite down after the ambush from the Egyptian [reporter], which was successful as far as she was concerned. I wanted to bring him to his mother before I provided a scene for the camera."

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