Militants demand 1,000 prisoners for Israeli
Fri Jun 30, 2006 07:47 PM ET
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - Palestinian militant factions who captured an Israeli soldier
demanded on Saturday that Israel free 1,000 prisoners from its jails and end
an assault on Gaza launched to win the soldier's release.
A statement from the groups -- the second since Corporal Gilad Shalit was
captured in a raid across Gaza's frontier on Sunday -- appeared to cast doubt
on the hopes of mediators that diplomacy could soon get him free and demanded
an end to "all Israeli aggression" in the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank.
Israel has said it will not consider releasing prisoners in exchange for
"We are declaring to the public our just and humanitarian demands," said the
statement faxed to news agencies by the armed wing of the governing Hamas
Islamist group, the Popular Resistance Committees and Army of Islam.
It repeated an earlier demand for the release of women prisoners and minors in
exchange for information on Shalit, but made the added request for Israel to
free 1,000 "Palestinian, Arab and Muslim prisoners."
It said these would have to include all Palestinian faction leaders as well as
The statement did not specify that this would be in exchange for Shalit's
release, but Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for the Hamas armed wing, said that was
what it meant.
The document cast doubt on mediation efforts.
"In spite of the good efforts of the mediators who tried in silence to speed
up the treatment of this humanitarian matter, the enemy and their political
leadership are still under the pressure of the security and military command,"
"The escalation and arrogance mean the enemy will be responsible for the bad
consequences," it said. There was no specific threat to Shalit.
Mediators earlier voiced hope that their efforts could bear fruit.
Israel's tanks moved into southern Gaza on Wednesday and its aircraft fired
missiles at training camps for militants early on Saturday, but the Jewish
state has kept on hold a threatened ground offensive into northern Gaza.
Israel has said it is playing no part in mediation efforts.
Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, whose Hamas movement is officially committed to
destroying Israel, demanded an end to the Israeli offensive on Friday and said
it was complicating efforts to end the standoff.
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