JERUSALEM, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Thousands of people gathered in Jerusalem to mark the 24th birthday of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit -- his fifth in captivity in Gaza.
Shalit who was abducted in a cross border raid in June 2006 and taken to Gaza at the age of 19. He turned 24 on Saturday.
Thousands flocked to the tent Saturday night where the Shalit family has been staying since ending their nationwide trek to raise awareness and national support for the captive's release. The tent is located outside Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's residence.
Gilad's mother, Aviva, read a letter, saying: "My dear son Gilad, today is your birthday. Also this year I didn't buy a present, or bake a cake, and you won't be able to blow out the candles and make a wish. ... Today I ask one wish for you, that your candle does not blow out and you remain healthy in body and soul and don't give up. We are doing everything possible to ensure the government answers your wish, but it mainly lies in the hands of the prime minister who lives opposite."
Yedioth Aharonoth reported that Noam Shalit shared a letter from French President Nicolas Sarkozy that said: "Your struggle is our struggle …holding a person captive at a secret location for over four years goes against all human values."
Netanyahu has said he plans to initiate a meeting with the Shalit family before the Jewish New Year holiday.