It is a gruesome thought.

But when Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, the two soldiers taken captive by Hezbollah just before the second Lebanon war, were handed back to Israel, their bodies were in coffins. Surprise. Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Bernard Kouchner, his French counterpart, had vouched that they were alive. Other intermediaries assumed the same and assured Jerusalem of the same.

The Israeli government has now insisted that Gilad Shalit be brought alive to cross the border with Gaza before any of the hundreds of Palestinian terrorists are released and before a solid truce (or as solid a truce as can be had with Hamas) goes into effect, and that it has done so precisely because it fears that he is dead.

Hamas is a gang of monstrous men and it has held the innocents of Gaza hostage to its murderous designs. What I don't grasp is why Israel's government permitted hundreds and hundreds of trucks full of supplies into the Strip before Shalit was safely in its hands. After all, relief also aids Hamas, which is right now preparing for the next round.

If Shalit is dead the truce will be dead, too. And justifiably so.