Kidnap campaigners petition government
A SENIOR Whitehall official has pledged that the release of three captured Israeli soldiers is high on the government’s agenda.
He revealed that British diplomats have been in contact with their opposite numbers in Lebanon and the Palestine Authority in a bid to free them.
The statement came on Wednesday from Neil Wigan, head of the Foreign Office’s Arab, Israel and North African Department, who received a petition with 11,500 signatures calling on Britain to press for the release of reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, kidnapped by Hizbollah last summer, and Corporal Gilad Shalit, being held in Gaza by Hamas gunmen.
Mr Goldwasser and Mr Regev are believed to have been seriously wounded during their abduction, although Corporal Shalit is thought to be in good health.
The petition, organised by Christian Friends of Israel and the Zionist Federation was supported by more than 100 MPs who signed a Commons motion calling for Hizbollah and Hamas to release the three without conditions.
It was received by Mr Wigan at a packed and emotional meeting in a parliamentary committee room where hundreds of Jewish and Christian supporters of Israel lobbied MPs.
In the presence of Mr Goldwasser’s wife, Karnit, he said the government “recognises the suffering of the soldiers’ families and I want to assure you that from the Prime Minister down this is a matter that is high on our agenda.”
In an impassioned address, Mrs Goldwasser said that the family had not heard a word about her husband or about Mr Regev. “We know for sure that when they were captured they were alive. We have spoken to people — too many people — who were in captivity and they have told us that a day in those conditions is like a lifetime. I have known my husband for nine years and I know he is sitting there and that he knows I am doing all I can to bring him home. When he is free, I will bring him here to thank you.”
The most difficult thing, she said, was returning home to an empty house. “I will never get used to it, and I ask you, please do not stop raising your voice.”
Other speakers at the meeting included MPs Louise Ellman, Lee Scott and Alan Beith, Likud MK Gidon Sa’ar and Israel’s deputy ambassador in London, Talia Lador Fresher.
Foreign Office official Neil Wigan, right, with Karnit Goldwasser, ZF president Eric Moonman (second right), and Geoffrey Smith of the Christian Friends of Israel (far left) Photo: John Rifkin