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Hamas Will Consider Hostage Release When All Prisoners Are Freed


Only after thousands of Palestinian Authority prisoners are released from Israeli jails will Hamas terrorists "consider" releasing IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit, said the group's representative in Lebanon. Osama Hamdan told Kul al-Arab, a Nazareth-based newspaper, that Israelis should not send their sons "to serve in an army that kills women, children and infants." He said there are "tens of thousands of Palestinian prisoners who have been kidnapped and taken hostage by the occupation, including 400 children and 150 women." No guarantee was given that Shalit would be released, regardless of whether PA prisoners were released.

Israel Orders Freeze on IDF Operation in North Gaza

By Ha'aretz

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed its planes hit the office of Interior Minister Said Siyam, which it called "a meeting place to plan and direct terror activity."

The government decided Thursday evening to put off a fresh IDF military offensive in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanun, due to be launched that evening.

The decision was made following consultations held by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz with security officials, after Egypt asked Israel to allow more time for negotiations on the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, abducted Sunday from a post near the Gaza border.

The operation was aimed at halting Kassam rockets from being fired at southern Israel. Meanwhile, six of the homemade rockets struck the western Negev and Sderot on Thursday evening. There were no casualties. Two people were treated for shock when a rocket slammed into a horse farm in Sderot earlier Thursday. The farm, located next to the city's cemetery, was damaged in the attack.

On Thursday night, IDF artillery shells hit the electricity distribution network in the northern Gaza Strip, plunging parts of the area into darkness. Palestinian officials said two power transformers were struck, and two security officers were wounded by shrapnel. Dr. Ali Mousa, director of the Abu Yousef al-Najar Hospital in Rafah, also said a 15-year-old boy was moderately wounded by shrapnel in the blast.

The strike came two days after IAF aircraft attacked a major Gaza City power station, reportedly leaving roughly two-thirds of Gaza's 1.3 million residents without electricity.

The IDF confirmed it had been firing artillery at open spaces in the area at the time of Thursday's incident. The army said it has a report of an electrical pole being hit and was checking if the artillery fire was in any way related. IDF artillery units fired more than 400 shells at the Gaza Strip on Thursday.

Givati infantry troops and the Armored Corps, whose soldiers were to receive orders to move on Beit Hanun around nightfall, remained poised in their positions at the north Gaza border.

Mediators involved in contacts to help free Shalit from Palestinian captivity told Ha'aretz that Egypt communicated to Jerusalem its wish that talks be allowed to continue. Although the talks have yet to yield a breakthrough, negotiations with Hamas officials in the territories as well as outside of the country are ongoing, mediators said.

According to information gleaned by the Palestinian Authority, Shalit is being held in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in southern Gaza. Peretz said Thursday afternoon that the IDF would sustain its blockade on the Gaza Strip until Shalit is brought home safely.

In a meeting with the heads of the defense establishment earlier in the day, Peretz predicted there was still a chance for a breakthrough that would lead to finding Shalit. "We are now at the crucial moment ahead of setting new rules to the game... Any action we take must be examined thoroughly, according to its possible effect on the formulation of these rules."

The IDF has not completely ceased its military activities in Gaza, but is rather halting any further offensive measures at this stage.

Peretz authorized Thursday the next stages of the IDF's operation in Gaza, which began overnight Tuesday, and ordered troops to monitor the humanitarian situation in the Strip.

Hundreds of Palestinian and Egyptian police formed human cordons on both sides of the Gaza-Egypt border Thursday evening; to block a tide of Palestinians trying to enter after terrorists blasted a 13-foot hole in a cement wall near the crossing. Palestinian security sources reported that the men who detonated the explosives were Hamas operatives who succeeded in crossing the border into Sinai from the Brazil neighborhood of Rafah.

Two Palestinian security personnel were wounded in the border explosion, and security forces were ordered to the area to prevent people from going through the hole. Egyptian personnel called a bulldozer to the site in order to dig a dirt embankment aimed at preventing any infiltration of Palestinians into the Sinai, but to no avail.

Palestinian Authority security sources said they do not know the motive for an escape by Palestinians into Egypt, adding that they believe the explosion was planned and approved by the upper echelon of the Hamas military wing. Palestinian murderers involved in the kidnapping of Shalit taunted Israel on Thursday by saying he could be dead or alive.

Abu Mujahed, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, which was involved in the attack that led to Shalit's capture, said in a statement that Israel should stop wasting time if it wanted to resolve the crisis over the abduction.

"Possibility one: the missing soldier, for one reason or another, is dead and maybe there is a morgue available for his body or maybe there is not," Abu Mujahed said at a news conference. "Possibility two is the soldier is still alive but is suffering a serious injury. Medication might be available or might not be available ... Possibility three is that he is fine but that a long time will pass [before he is released]. Wasting time is not in their interests," he said.

Also Thursday, dozens of Palestinian terrorists armed with grenades and automatic weapons took up positions near sand piles and barricades in the northern Gaza Strip, in anticipation of the IDF operation.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades sources claimed Thursday they fired a rocket with a chemical warhead at Israel. The IDF said they did not identify an impact of any such rocket nor was there even evidence of a launch.

Meanwhile, the IDF continued its land-based operation in the southern Gaza Strip, and the Israel Air Force also struck targets in the south in continued efforts to pressure terrorists to release Shalit.

The Israel Air Force carried out an air strike Thursday afternoon against a car in Gaza City carrying a senior Islamic Jihad murderer, who survived the attack, Palestinian security sources said.

The IDF confirmed it had targeted a vehicle but gave no details about who it believed was inside. The terrorist was lightly wounded in the attack, witnesses said.

Late Thursday morning IAF aircrafts also fired missiles near Khan Yunis. Initially, Palestinian medical officials said a car had been targeted, but then said the car was just close to an open area hit by the missiles. They said a militant training camp appeared to have been the target. No casualties were reported.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned Tuesday that Israel would not balk at "extreme action" to retrieve Shalit, but stressed that there is no intention of reoccupying Gaza, from where Israel withdrew some 10 months ago.

The operation to rescue Shalit, dubbed "Summer Rains," was launched after two days of failed mediation over his release. "We won't hesitate to carry out extreme action to bring Gilad back to his family," Olmert said.

Shalit was the first to be seized by Palestinians since the 1994 abduction of Cpl. Nachshon Waxman, a 19-year-old Israeli-American soldier. At the time, Sayeret Matkal commandos stormed the safe house where Waxman was held, but he died in the raid along with a member of the rescue force and three of his Palestinian kidnappers.

Armed groups historically have used captured IDF soldiers, dead or alive, as a bargaining chip for the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Hamas PA Government Members Behind Bars


Hamas said Israel has declared war on the Palestinian Authority, after more than 60 senior Hamas figures, including many members of the PA government, were arrested Wednesday night.

The PA information ministry was quoted as stating that the IDF operations in Gaza are "not a proper response to the capture of an invading Israeli soldier and this is going to lead to a dangerous escalation on all fronts."

The Palestinian News Network also pointed out that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert "has refused to exchange the women and children in his prisons for the captured soldier."

The precisely-coordinated operations were executed in Ramallah, Jenin, Jerusalem, Shechem, Kalkilyeh, Bethlehem, Hebron and other towns throughout Judea and Samaria, starting shortly after midnight.

Among those captured in simultaneous operations in many PA cities are members of the PA government and parliament, and senior Hamas movement leaders.

Israel emphasized that the arrests were not in order to obtain "trading cards" in exchange for the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, but were rather routine police arrests of criminals suspected of membership in a terrorist organization. "Anyone who is found to be innocent will be released," Israeli sources said.

While top Hamas leaders in Gaza have gone into hiding, Hamas spokesmen responded publicly with hysteria. "This is a revolution against human and democratic values," Hamas spokesman Mushir Al-Masri told Al-Jazeera. "This is an international crime and an open declaration of war against the Palestinian nation [sic]... The international community must speak out. Where are the Arab and Muslim countries? The arrest of the ministers and legislators is not just a blow against the Palestinian Authority, but against the sovereignty of the parliaments and governments of all the Arab, Muslim and free nations."

Former US mediator Dennis Ross said that Israel must not negotiate with Hamas for the release of the soldier, as "this will merely invite further kidnappings... As someone who believes in the value of negotiations, I say that negotiations are not the proper response in every situation."

Former PA negotiator and Abbas-associate Saeb Erekat complained that Israel's operation had left the PA with no leadership. "We have no government, we have nothing," he said. "They have all been taken. This is absolutely unacceptable."

France has condemned the arrests of the Hamas leaders. The soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas, Gilad Shalit, holds French citizenship, and France's Ambassador in Israel has visited the Shalit family in its Galilee home.

Russia and China have called upon Hamas to release the abducted soldier. Pope Benedict XVI has called for the release of "all those who were kidnapped."

Islamic Leaders: Suicide Bombers Go to Hell


Suicide? Not in Islam. The following may be bad timing for the Palestinian factions preparing for battle against the Israel Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip and for revenge attacks on the Western world.

On Wednesday, top Islamic clerics at the Supreme Council of Al-Azhar University in Egypt, perhaps the most important in the Islamic world, said that the Islamic rule (Shaaria) forbids suicide, the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reported.

The clerics determined that a connection was mistakenly made between suicide and a "sacrifice to defend religion and the homeland". The clerics stressed that the faith of those who commit suicide is no less than hell.

"Those who commit suicide bombings in the name of religion are not Muslims but rather people who sold their soul to the devil," Islamic clerics ruled. "They didn't understand the principle of the religion according to which there is no killing allowed, except by law.

"There is a difference between jihad and terror, between sacrificing yourself and suicide," said Dr. Mohammad Rafat Othman, a member of the Jurisprudence Research Committee of the Islamic Research Academy, Al-Azhar.

"Many don't fully understand the Islamic commandments in regards to jihad. Someone who blows himself up in the middle of a crowd is a sinner who commits several crimes, first and foremost is suicide. It is well-known that religion has a sweeping prohibition on suicide or killing of others. Taking one soul is one of the worst sins one can do, commanded specifically by God."

Othman continued: "The second crime that a man who commits suicide carries out is the killings of others, while his motives are political and not religious. There is this suicide bomber who kills himself against his ruler and at the same time kills many innocent people – that is a sin. Not to mention public and personal property damage.

"Those who commit a suicide bombing because of political motives turn the suicide into a religious ideology using it to sacrifice souls, not of martyrs but of those who commit suicide because God promised them torment on judgment day.

"The martyr, according to Islamic rule, is a man who fights the enemy and sacrifice his life while defending his religion, his homeland, his wives' respect, and protecting his land. This is set in Islamic laws, and only if he dies this way, he is a martyr."

However, Israelis should not be happy about this strict ruling. Ottman was quick to hint that suicide against Israeli targets is allowed. "Those using suicide bombing against the enemy, the land robbers, and the occupier of nations, are martyrs," he concluded.

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