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Israel Bombs Fatah Building, Rejects Militant Ultimatum on Soldier


03 July 2006

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has rejected a demand by Palestinian militants holding an Israeli soldier to release Palestinian prisoners by early Tuesday.

Mr. Olmert says his government will not conduct any negotiations to win the release of the 19-year old corporal, who was abducted on June 25. Mr. Olmert added that the Palestinian government is responsible for ensuring the soldier's safety and return.

He issued the statement after three Palestinian militant groups (the Popular Resistance Committees, the armed wing of the governing Hamas movement and the Army of Islam in Gaza) threatened unspecified consequences unless Israel releases hundreds of prisoners.

Earlier Monday, Israeli forces entered Gaza to search for explosive devices and tunnels dug to Israel by militants.

Also Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the situation. Mr. Abbas made the call after Mr. Putin met in Moscow with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad says the kidnappers' demands are in response to Israeli airstrikes on Gaza over the past week.

Prime Minister Olmert had ordered the army to intensify operations to secure the release of the soldier. Also Monday, Israeli warplanes also attacked a building used by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Movement.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.



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