Page last updated at 19:42 GMT, Sunday, 25 April 2010 20:42 UK

Israel blasts new Shalit cartoon released by Hamas

Gilad Shalit in the video released by Hamas
Mr Shalit appeared healthy in a video released in October

Hamas, the Islamist movement which controls the Gaza Strip, has released another animated cartoon depicting captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

It shows Mr Shalit, who was captured by Hamas in June 2006, being returned to Israel in a coffin and features what appears to be his voice.

His father Noam is shown wandering empty streets past billboards of Israeli leaders vowing to free his son.

Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu said the cartoon was "despicable".

The three-minute, slickly produced video says that if Israel does not agree to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, Mr Shalit will meet the same fate as Ron Arad, an Israeli pilot captured in Lebanon in 1986 and never seen since.

'Psychological warfare'

A similar cartoon film released a year ago showed Mr Shalit chained in a cell.

In a video message released by Hamas in October, he appeared to be in reasonably good health.

Negotiations over a prisoner exchange in which Israel would release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Mr Shalit have been stalled for more than three months.

Hamas says that more than 10,000 Palestinians are held unjustly in Israeli jails.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told the BBC the cartoon was a way of telling Israel that Hamas was not willing to negotiate.

"Gambling with time is an effort to try to blackmail Hamas into lowering its demands and offering concessions," he said. "It's the wrong bet."

Noam Shalit called the film "psychological warfare" and urged Hamas to reach a deal with Israel in order to ease an Israeli-Egyptian blockade that has made life hard for Gaza's people.

"Hamas leaders would do better if instead of producing films and performances, they would worry about the real interests of the Palestinian prisoners and the ordinary citizens of Gaza who have been held hostage by their leaders for a long time," he said in a statement.

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