(CNSNews.com) – Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu described as “despicable” an animated video clip released by Hamas Sunday which depicts an Israeli soldier who was abducted by the terrorist group in Gaza nearly four years ago, being returned to his father in Israel in a coffin.
The clip demonstrated “the true character of Hamas,” Netanyahu said.
Posted on the Web site of Hamas’ military wing, Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, the three-minute clip implies that if the Israeli government does not agree to a prisoner swap, then Gilad Shalit will be killed.
It shows Shalit’s father, Noam, carrying a photograph of his son, wandering aimlessly down the years and getting visibly older, passing billboards showing a succession of Israeli leaders pledging to secure Gilad’s freedom. Against a background of mournful music and a darkening sky, rain and lightning, a recording of Shalit’s voice is heard, apparently excerpts from a recorded video message Hamas provided last September to prove he was still alive. (Israel released 20 female Palestinian detainees in exchange for the proof-of-life video.)
“Finally the efforts of the Israeli government culminated in success,” a caption says. “The exchange deal achieved, finally Noam met with his son, Gilad.”
The clip then shows a green van drawing up at Gaza’s Erez checkpoint, where Noam Shalit awaits. As a flag-draped coffin slides out, he gives a cry of anguish – then wakes up to discover it was a dream, that “there is still hope.”
The video warns that if Israel does not reach a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas, Shalit would end up like an Israeli air force navigator whose plane was shot down over Lebanon in 1986.
“We warn Zionist society that the soldier held captive by the Qassam Brigades 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.”
The film clip also suggested that Hamas would kidnap many more Israeli soldiers in the years to come, so much so that Israel would eventually have to establish a government “ministry of prisoners and missing soldiers.”
Shalit, now 23, was abducted by Palestinian gunmen during a June 2006 raid across the Gaza-Israel frontier that cost the lives of two other Israeli soldiers. Hamas has held him ever since, demanding the release of hundreds of prisoners in exchange for his freedom.
Israel has historically agreed to massively lopsided exchanges of prisoners for captured soldiers or the remains of those who went missing in action.
The Hamas video depiction of Noam Shalit being confronted by a coffin bears echoes of the case of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, another two Israeli soldiers who were captured by terrorists in a cross-border raid, in that instance by Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006.
Hezbollah eventually returned two coffins bearing their remains to Israel in 2008, in exchange for five Lebanese prisoners – including notorious terrorist Samir Kuntar – and the bodies of some 200 other Lebanese and Palestinians.
Indirect talks between Israel and Hamas, brokered by Egypt and Germany, over exchanging Shalit for hundreds of imprisoned Palestinians have stalled over Hamas’ demands to include some high-profile terrorists “with blood on their hands” among those to be released.
In a statement on its Web site, the Qassam Brigades said one of the messages intended by the video clip is “that as long the Zionist occupation refuse to achieve the demands of the Palestinian résistance factions, more Zionist soldiers are going to be arrested for releasing Palestinian prisoners from Zionist jails.”
American Jewish Committee executive director David Harris said the video shows again the “truly despicable” nature of the terrorist group that controls Gaza.
“Hamas kills, maims, kidnaps and terrorizes – and then mocks the pain and suffering of its victims,” he said.