07/04/2006, 00.00
ISRAEL – PALESTINE
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Tensions escalate over Israeli corporal's kidnapping

People are suffering and dying in Gaza as Egyptian and Saudi diplomatic efforts continue. Israel warns Syria against supporting the terrorists. Palestinians and Israelis say the soldier is still alive.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The repercussions from the capture of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit by Palestinian groups are growing. "This could take weeks or even months and there is no magical solution," said Yuval Diskin, head of Shin Bet, Israel's Internal General Security Service. On the other hand, "[t]hey (the militant factions) may kill him, take him to another country or may hide him. All options are open," said Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades leader Osama al-Muzaini. For now though, the corporal should still be alive, according to Avi Pazner, spokesman for the Israeli government.

His life should not be in danger. One of the three groups who claimed they are holding the soldier said that Islam is against killing hostages whilst Hamas delcared that it is working to save his life.

Al-Muzaini, who was involved in talks with Egypt to free the prisoner, announced that the three factions holding him had pulled out from the negotiations. However, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat denied the statement saying that the Egyptian government was still trying to solve the crisis but that Israel's violations on the ground were reducing the possibilities of reaching a compromise.

Egypt's pursuit of a solution continues relentless. President Mubarak is in Saudi Arabia for consultation as to how better deal with the situation.

The Hamas government has asked for more time to continue negotiations. "We believe there remains a chance to reach an acceptable formula," said Mr Ghazi Hamad, the spokesman of the Islamist-led government. He added none the less that talks remained complex and required more time.

For its part, Israel and its prime minister, Ehud Olmert, have reiterated their unwillingness to negotiate and instead are keeping up the pressure on the Gaza Strip.

Israel's interior minister, Roni Bar-On, warned Hamas that if anything should happen to the soldier, "the sky will fall on them".

"We won't succumb to terrorism," he reiterated. "There is no deal, no succumbing, not to the ultimatum and not to terrorism."

Israel has also called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stop terrorists operating on his territory.

The Syrian leader replied saying that "Syria stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Palestinian people in their crisis and faced with Israeli repression."

In the meantime, the Israeli army continues its operations on the ground. A 20-year-old member of the al-Aqsa Brigades, which is close to Fatah, was mortally wounded today in Jenin.

Just before the incident the Brigades had claimed responsibility for a blast set of by remote control against an Israeli army jeep.

The Israelis also launched rockets against Gaza's Islamic University, a Hamas stronghold.

Violence also spread to the West Bank. In Ramallah Israeli troops stormed a Palestinian police station and detained three Palestinian suspected in the kidnapping and murder of 18-year-old settler Eliyahu Asheri.

In Gaza the population is instead beginning to feel the consequences of the lack of food and fuel. Stores are closed and power supply is intermittent.

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