Palestinian militants issue Israel ultimatum

Palestinian militants issue Israel ultimatum

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip – Palestinian militants who abducted an Israeli soldier gave Israel less than 24 hours yesterday to meet their demands to release Palestinian prisoners, threatening unspecified consequences if it refused.

“If the enemy does not agree to our humanitarian demands … we will regard this case as closed,” said “Military Communique 3″, issued by the armed wing of the governing Hamas movement and two other factions.”We give the Zionist enemy until 6am tomorrow, Tuesday, the fourth of July,” the statement said.In previous communiques, the groups called on Israel, as a first stage, to release some 400 Palestinian women and youths in its prisons in return for information about Corporal Gilad Shalit, abducted in a June 25 raid launched from Gaza.The groups – Hamas’ Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committees and the previously unknown Islamic Army – subsequently demanded Israel free 1 000 Palestinian prisoners.Unless the demands were met, the factions said, “the enemy will bear full responsibility for future consequences”.The statement accused Israel, mounting a military offensive in Gaza, of bad faith in an Egyptian mediation effort to end a crisis that has pushed Israeli-Palestinian ties to new lows and put more world pressure on the Hamas-led Palestinian government.Speaking to reporters after a visit to the soldier’s family, Israeli army chief Dan Halutz said: “The position of the Israeli government …is that it will not yield to any extortion, to any ultimatum set by Hamas.”But Shalit’s father told reporters Halutz had informed him that Israeli authorities were “assessing the issue on a professional level”.In an interview in Hebrew on Israel Radio, Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the Hamas-led government, said: “If you are willing to release prisoners, we are willing to see (Shalit) return home an hour later.”Hamas political leaders have said they have no control over the group’s armed wing.Hours before the latest communique, Israeli tanks and armoured bulldozers pushed into the northern Gaza Strip in what an Israeli military source described as a “pinpoint operation” to locate tunnels and explosives near the border fence.”This is not a massive ground entrance,” the source said.A Palestinian gunman in the area was killed by an Israeli aircraft, witnesses said.The Israeli military said it opened fire on two armed men, hitting one of them.A Reuters reporter in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun said the bulldozers appeared to be preparing the ground for a possible wider incursion into the area, used by militants as a launch site for rocket attacks against southern Israel.Israel, which pulled out of Gaza last year, sent troops and tanks into the southern Gaza Strip last Wednesday after gunmen seized Shalit, a 19-year-old tank gunner in a raid in which two other soldiers and two of the attackers were killed.- Nampa-Reuterswe will regard this case as closed,” said “Military Communique 3″, issued by the armed wing of the governing Hamas movement and two other factions.”We give the Zionist enemy until 6am tomorrow, Tuesday, the fourth of July,” the statement said.In previous communiques, the groups called on Israel, as a first stage, to release some 400 Palestinian women and youths in its prisons in return for information about Corporal Gilad Shalit, abducted in a June 25 raid launched from Gaza.The groups – Hamas’ Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committees and the previously unknown Islamic Army – subsequently demanded Israel free 1 000 Palestinian prisoners.Unless the demands were met, the factions said, “the enemy will bear full responsibility for future consequences”.The statement accused Israel, mounting a military offensive in Gaza, of bad faith in an Egyptian mediation effort to end a crisis that has pushed Israeli-Palestinian ties to new lows and put more world pressure on the Hamas-led Palestinian government.Speaking to reporters after a visit to the soldier’s family, Israeli army chief Dan Halutz said: “The position of the Israeli government …is that it will not yield to any extortion, to any ultimatum set by Hamas.”But Shalit’s father told reporters Halutz had informed him that Israeli authorities were “assessing the issue on a professional level”.In an interview in Hebrew on Israel Radio, Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the Hamas-led government, said: “If you are willing to release prisoners, we are willing to see (Shalit) return home an hour later.”Hamas political leaders have said they have no control over the group’s armed wing.Hours before the latest communique, Israeli tanks and armoured bulldozers pushed into the northern Gaza Strip in what an Israeli military source described as a “pinpoint operation” to locate tunnels and explosives near the border fence.”This is not a massive ground entrance,” the source said.A Palestinian gunman in the area was killed by an Israeli aircraft, witnesses said.The Israeli military said it opened fire on two armed men, hitting one of them.A Reuters reporter in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun said the bulldozers appeared to be preparing the ground for a possible wider incursion into the area, used by militants as a launch site for rocket attacks against southern Israel.Israel, which pulled out of Gaza last year, sent troops and tanks into the southern Gaza Strip last Wednesday after gunmen seized Shalit, a 19-year-old tank gunner in a raid in which two other soldiers and two of the attackers were killed.- Nampa-Reuters

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