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Last Updated: Monday, 26 June 2006, 17:30 GMT 18:30 UK
Israel soldier's family wait for news
Martin Patience
BBC News, Mitzpeh Hila

Noam Shalit, father of Gilad Shilat, outside his home in Mitzpeh Hila
Noam Shalit appeared composed but emotionally drained
At Corporal Gilad Shalit's home in the small community of Mitzpeh Hila located close to the Israeli Lebanese border, his family wait for any news about his fate.

Neighbours who have been inside say that the family are desperately worried.

"They jump at the sound of the telephone," said one neighbour, who refused to give her name. "This is a small community and everybody knows each other. When something like this happens it's like your own family."

A family friend described the Shalits as a peaceful and quiet family.

Support

The road to their home is choked with cars. At the front of the house journalists and soldiers have been gathered for two days.

An Israeli army spokeswoman says that the military are regularly updating the family on any news they receive.

Undated family picture of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit
A friend described the Shalit family as 'peaceful and quiet'

Throughout the day, family and friends have come and gone from the house, offering comfort to the family whose son is the first Israeli soldier to be captured by Palestinians since 1994.

A mayor from a nearby Israeli-Arab village paid a visit to the family to show his support.

This is not the first time that the Shalit family have been touched by war.

During the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Gilad's uncle Yoel was killed in the second day of fighting.

Gilad's older brother, a university student in the nearby city of Haifa, is named after his dead uncle.

Media scrum

Late in the afternoon the French ambassador arrived at the Shalits' home in a grey Peugeot.

Although born in Israel, Gilad Shalit carries dual French/Israeli citizenship.

The ambassador entered the family home, which has the blue and white Israeli flag flying from its roof, and emerged a few minutes later with Gilad's father, Noam, by his side.

Earlier in the day, the family had distributed a letter to the media calling for their son's safe release.

Standing under a giant tree and surrounded by a scrum of photographers and cameramen, Noam looked composed but emotionally drained.

Wearing a black T-shirt and sandals he said he had just spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who insisted that all had been done to secure Gilad's release.

After a few minutes of talking to the press, Noam returned to the house to wait with his wife, son and daughter for any more news on the fate of his son.


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