An armed Israeli policeman points his gun towards Palestinian demonstrators and photographers during clashes in East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras Al Amud, following noon prayers, yesterday.
GAZA CITY: A young Israeli soldier captured by Gaza militants and held for five years before being traded for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners is the subject of an ambitious low-budget film being made by his captors.
The fate of Gilad Shalit, a corporal captured in a deadly cross-border raid when he was just 19, transfixed Israel for years as his captivity in an unknown location challenged what most Israelis see as the state’s sacred duty to bring its soldiers home. But for the Islamist Hamas movement ruling Gaza, his capture and eventual exchange for more than 1,000 prisoners was a triumph for the “resistance,” an epic worthy of a blockbuster feature —even if produced on a shoestring budget.
A shortage of funds has drastically slowed the production, and even its director said it may not live up to the high-quality epic envisioned.
Entitled Fleeting Illusion, the 90-minute film promises revelations about Shalit’s capture and top-secret captivity “about which neither Shalit nor the resistance have spoken before,” director and screenwriter Majed Jundiyeh said. Jundiyeh, who says he is not a member of Hamas, made the 2009 biopic Emad Akel about a commander of Hamas’s military wing who headed Israel’s hit list until he was killed in 1993.
Filming on his latest work began in December, and the first of the film’s two parts was to have been ready for the eighth anniversary of Shalit’s June 2006 capture by Hamas and two other militant groups, whose fighters tunnelled into Israel and attacked a border post.
Shalit was eventually released in October 2011 in exchange for 1,027 Palestinians. Gilad’s father Noam Shalit, who was long the public face of the campaign for his release, declined to speak about the film, saying he did not want to “engage in a dialogue with Hamas.”
“The story is behind us,” he said. The first scenes of the film were shot in a small room at the ministry of prisoners’ affairs, depicting a dark Israeli cell where Hamas fighter Mustafa Muammar is being questioned after his capture by Israeli troops on the eve of the Shalit raid. Muammar’s interrogators, played by fellow Gazan actors, plunge his head into a bucket of water to try to make him cough up information that could compromise the operation planned for the next day. “I dream that this film on Shalit will make me known in the world,” says the actor playing Muammar, 21-year-old Mohammad Radhi, a journalism student by day. His interrogator is played by Mohammad Abu Qumsane, son of a militant killed by Israel.
“I love being an actor because it is a way of expressing the issue of prisoners with humanity,” he says. Most of the cast of 40, among them 12 women, are amateurs, says Jundiyeh, who himself plays an Israeli officer.
He says that Mohammad Qarara, cast in the role of Shalit, gets paid “no more than 2,000 shekels ($570) a month.”
The film will by necessity be a low-budget affair, in part because Shalit’s capture prompted Israel to impose a blockade on Gaza that remains to this day, though some of the restrictions have been eased in recent years.
Israel army clashes with Palestinians after West Bank funeral
BIRZEIT: Israeli soldiers shot and wounded five Palestinians in clashes in the West Bank yesterday, medics said, after the funeral of a man killed during an army raid. Clashes broke out between stone-throwing Palestinians and Israeli troops at the Atara checkpoint near the town of Birzeit shortly after the funeral, and medics said five people suffered bullet wounds to the legs.
The army said some 200 Palestinians began throwing stones at Israeli forces, who used “riot dispersal means” against them, including live fire “against the main instigators.” The clashes came after Motazz Washaha was found dead in his home in Birzeit following a Thursday morning raid by the army, which said he was “suspected of terror activity.”
Some 4,000 mourners attended Washaha’s funeral at Birzeit, north of the West Bank administrative centre of Ramallah, calling on Palestinian factions to unite and avenge Washaha’s killing. He was identified by neighbours as a member of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the movement’s red flags were visible at the funeral.AFP