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In Israel, Gilad Shalit's family launches 12-day march to Netanyahu's door

Four years after Gilad Shalit was abducted by Hamas on the border of the Gaza Strip, his family is marching to Jerusalem and vowing to camp outside Netanyahu's door until Israel brings Shalit home.

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Embattled by the blockade and last year's Gaza war, Hamas offered Israel a prisoner swap deal late in 2009 that was reportedly very close to Israel's requirements. But despite the years of economic pressure, the Islamist group refused to accept Israel's demand that many of the militants involved in the swap, including Marwan Barghouti, would be expelled from the Palestinian territories upon their release. The talks have been stalemated since.

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Three cabinet ministers to join Shalit march

On Monday, three cabinet ministers said they planned to join the Shalit family march to Jerusalem, a sign of how evenly split Israel's government is over the failure to secure Shalit's release. Shalit's plight resonates with Israelis, regardless of political affiliation, because of Israel's mandatory draft for all 18-year old males.

"The campaign is effective with the Israeli public. The feeling is that everyone has a soldier somewhere,'' says Uzi Dayan, a former general who is a member of Netanyahu's Likud Party. "Although I understand them, they are marching to their own address. There must be much more pressure on Hamas. Putting pressure on your own government signals to Hamas that they can get what they want. From their point of view, they can raise the price.''

Hamas's Damascus-based political leader, Khaled Meshaal, said on Monday that Israel is trying to deflect attention from Gaza by focusing on Shalit.

"The more time passes, we will raise the level of the demands," he said. "We aren't satisfied with Shalit only, and, God willing, the freedom fighters will succeed in kidnapping other soldiers.''

That's precisely why some Israelis, though sympathetic with the Shalits' plight, have opposed an asymmetric prisoner swap deal in the past.

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