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Hamas demands 1,500 Palestinian prisoners for Shalit, who turned 22 Thursday

Aug. 29, 2008 11:16 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 29, 2008 11:16 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Gilad Shalit turned 22 on Thursday, then on Friday Hamas officials say 15,000 prisoners are the ticket for his return.

Initial demands were for 450 prisoners, but recent months saw the demand rise to 1,000 and now, according to Israeli government sources who were informed by Egyptian officials, Shalit's captors will not release him for fewer than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners.

Israeli press reports their government officials as blaming the truce with Hamas as having strengthened the party, saying that when Israel stopped exerting "pressure" on the Gaza Strip, their demands became stronger. , the Hizbullah swap and

Ofer Dekel, charged with Shalit's portfolio, is reported to have suggested closing all Gaza crossings for fuel imports. This would come despite the approach of the holy month of Ramadan, and the truce agreement which promised to open crossings for basic supplies. Gaza is currently facing a fuel and food shortage crisis.

Other strategies suggested were to show "willingness" to negotiate with Hamas. The suggestion came from Minister of Defense Ehud Barak, who reportedly noted that the truce was started in order to bring Shalit home, and since the truce was a moderate success, it should be used as a base to build trust for negotiations.

The Israeli government is reported to have set up a committee to draft a list of prisoners that it would be willing to set free.

The news of Hamas' increased demand for the return of Shalit came one day after the captured soldier turned 22 years old. This is the third birthday that the young man has spent in the custody of his captors.

Rallies with disappointing turnouts were held in Shalit's home town of Mitzpe Hila, and Tel Aviv. In a special interview one Israeli reporter quoted Shalit's mother as saying that on Thursday, her son's birthday, she wrote him a letter, saying ".we will get you out of there. We, mom and dad, the family, your many friends and the many many citizens throughout this country that rally for you and feel that it is time to take action."

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