Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Hamas officials are calling for the abduction of more Israeli soldiers to be used as bargaining chips for the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners.
Hamas made the call before a number of Israeli-Palestinian clashes over the weekend that left up to nine Palestinians dead in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Hamas, reacting to the Israeli military crackdown, issued public calls for more terrorism.
"The blood of our people is not cheap," a Hamas statement said. It also invited Palestinians of every persuasion to unite and "use all possible means of resistance and to respond to the massacres."
Hamas dominates the P.A. unity government that includes Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction. The U.S. and Israel have been backing Abbas as a "moderate" among Palestinians.
The kidnapping option
Hamas' Al-Aqsa Television reported last week that the Prisoners' Committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council recently presented 10 suggestions for action -- and "the most prominent was the call for further kidnappings of Zionist soldiers as a solution to end the [Palestinian] prisoners' suffering."
Um-Nasser Farachat, a member of the Legislative Council, said that speaking as a Palestinian citizen and not as a member of the Legislature, she didn't believe "in any solution other than one: kidnapping Zionist soldiers."
Former P.A. Interior Minister Sa'id Siam said that one soldier was not enough of a bargaining chip to force the release of all Palestinian prisoners.
"There were suggestions to repeat the operations of kidnapping other Israeli soldiers, because we know that the occupation understands no other language. Second, the capture of the [single] soldier will not be enough cause for the release of over 10,000 prisoners...There are many suggestions, but what's important is what will actually be done," Siam was quoted as saying in a transcript provided on Sunday by the Palestinian Media Watch, an independent Israeli research institute.
The abduction of three Israeli soldiers in two separate incidents last summer (the Palestinians abducted one soldier and Hizballah abducted two) as well as rocket and missile fire prompted a large-scale Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip and a war in Lebanon.
Israel still has received no official word on the whereabouts or condition of the soldiers. The Palestinians reportedly submitted a list of more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners they want freed in return for the Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier abducted by Palestinian terrorists in a cross-border raid on an Israeli military position last June.
That list included a number of terrorists who played a part in the murder of dozens of Israelis in terror attacks. Israel has in the past refused to release prisoners that have Israeli "blood on their hands."
Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip last November, but the truce is fragile, as events over the weekend showed.
One Palestinian was killed in the Gaza Strip Saturday, when Israel fired on a rocket launching squad. (Despite the ceasefire, Palestinians have not stopped firing rockets at Israeli communities.)
The worst of the clashes came in the West Bank, however. Israel has resisted attempts to include the West Bank in the ceasefire because it says that its counter-terrorism operations there are preventing terror attacks inside Israel.
On Saturday, five Palestinians were killed in the West Bank during arrest operations there. Palestinians said the dead included a teenage girl who was standing at the window of her home. But the army said it had fired at an armed gunman in a window. The death is now under investigation.
On Sunday, three more Palestinians were killed, two gunmen and a teenager. Palestinians said the teen was throwing rocks at an army jeep. Israel said he was getting ready to throw a firebomb.
A spokesman for Abbas' Fatah faction, Abu Hakim Alwad, said that the Palestinian leadership should reconsider its contacts - including bi-monthly meetings -- with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Alwad reportedly accused Israel of "sabotaging" Abbas' efforts to "maintain calm and to strengthen the ceasefire."
On Monday, Palestinians launched at least one rocket at Israel from the Gaza Strip. Israel denied reports that it had dropped leaflets in the Gaza Strip warning Palestinians that it would enter the Strip in 48 hours if the rocket fire did not cease.
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