Terrorists imply kidnapped soldier is dead - protest jailing of Hamas members after attack inside Israel provokes Gaza incursion
June 30, 2006
MIM: A day after the attack into Israel during which Gilad Shalit was kidnapped, terrorists had seized Eliyahu Asheri. The terrorists who killed him made of pretence of his being alive, implying there was a reason to negotiate for his release, when in fact Asheri had been shot in the head immediately upon his abduction. The ominous comment that "maybe there is a mosque waiting for his body, maybe not " and the failure to provide any signs of life, makes it very likely that Gilad Shalit has met the same fate as Eliahu Asheri.
Palestinian parliament vents fury at Israel
Hamas, Fatah protest capture of lawmakers
By Laura King and Ken Ellingwood
Los Angeles Times
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – The Hamas-dominated Palestinian government expressed outrage Thursday over the detention by Israeli troops of more than two dozen of its lawmakers and Cabinet ministers, an action that has brought a complex new dimension to the standoff over a captured Israeli soldier.
The roundup of Hamas elected officials drew expressions of international concern, and even the rival Fatah faction weighed in with sharp criticism, calling it an effort by Israel to topple the Hamas-dominated government.
The detentions in the West Bank came as Israel pressed its military offensive in the Gaza Strip for a second day, staging periodic artillery barrages and airstrikes.
Israeli troops and armor remained massed at a disused airport at Gaza's southern tip, but held off Thursday on what had been an expected ground offensive in northern Gaza. Israeli officials indicated that the delay was at the behest of Egyptian mediators, who reportedly asked for more time to try to achieve a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
Early today, Israeli aircraft bombed the Palestinian Interior Ministry, setting it afire. The Israeli military confirmed its planes hit the office of Interior Minister Said Siyam, which it called "a meeting place to plan and direct terror activity." The Interior Ministry is nominally in charge of Palestinian security forces, though moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas removed most of its authority.
No casualties on the ground have been reported since the offensive began early Wednesday, but human rights groups have warned of a looming humanitarian crisis after airstrikes knocked out infrastructure in the Palestinian territory's main power transformer, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without electricity and curtailing water service.
There was no word on the fate of 19-year-old Cpl. Gilad Shalit, whose seizure on Sunday by Palestinian militants sparked Israel's first large-scale incursion into Gaza since it pulled out of the seaside territory more than nine months ago.
The Popular Resistance Committees, one of the militant factions purportedly holding Shalit, refused Thursday to offer any assurances the missing soldier is still alive.
"Maybe there is a morgue waiting for his body, and maybe not," a spokesman for the group, who goes by the nom de guerre of Abu Mujahed, told reporters in Gaza.
Israel has rejected demands by the militants and the Hamas government to release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit's freedom.
Anger and anxiety in Israel over Shalit's fate grew after the grisly discovery of the body of 18-year-old West Bank settler Eliyahu Asheri, kidnapped by the same group on Sunday and apparently executed shortly thereafter. Asheri was buried Thursday in Jerusalem.
Israeli officials said a further roundup of Hamas activists was expected, after raids early Thursday resulted in the detentions of 64 members of the radical Islamist group, and another 23 belonging to other militant Palestinian groups.
Those in custody included at least seven members of the Hamas-led Cabinet and at least 21 Hamas lawmakers, or nearly a third of the group's delegation in the Palestinian parliament, which it dominates.
Hours after the raids, confusion persisted about whether Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nasser a-Shaer was in custody or had merely dropped out of sight.
Hamas said he was not among those jailed.
Israeli officials said those who were detained could be charged with terrorism-related crimes. Israel, along with the United States, classifies Hamas a terrorist organization and its members can be charged under an Israeli law that bans membership in the group.
"We're talking about Hamas members, which is an illegal association in legal parlance, but that phrase conceals, for all intents and purposes, people who are involved in terrorism," Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, who heads the Israeli Army's central command, told Army Radio.
Palestinian officials denounced the Israeli operation, with some referring to it as an "abduction" and others charging that the jailing of so many Hamas politicians at a single time could paralyze a government already beset by an international aid boycott.
The Group of Eight foreign ministers, including U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, issued a statement in Moscow expressing "particular concern" about the jailing of parliamentarians and Cabinet ministers.
But Israel was unapologetic.
"We're not involved in nation-building in the Palestinian Authority," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev. "We are only involved in defending ourselves against terrorism."
Wednesday's push by troops and tanks into southern Gaza met with little real resistance, but in Gaza's north, militants built emplacements and laid homemade explosives in preparation for battle.
In one probably unintended consequence of the Israeli incursion, gunmen from the rival factions of Hamas and Fatah appeared to have patched up their differences, teaming up on patrols and dividing up positions to be defended.