According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the targets of the Israeli forces include the city of Khan Yunis, where an Israeli soldier may be held hostage.
The soldier, Gilad Shalit, 19, was captured in a June 25 raid inside Israel in which two Israeli soldiers and three Palestinians were killed. Three groupsthe Popular Resistance Committees; the Army of Islam; and the military wing of Hamas, the governing party in the Palestinian National Authority (PNA)claimed responsibility for the raid.
Shalits captors say he will be released if some 400 Palestinian women and youths under 18 jailed in Israel are freed. There are currently 9,000 Palestinians imprisoned by Tel Aviv.
We wont hesitate to carry out extreme action to bring Gilad back to his family, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert said of the attack. At the same time, he added, We do not intend to reoccupy Gaza.
PNA president Mahmoud Abbas condemned the capturing of Shalit and called the Israeli assault collective punishment and crimes against humanity.
Shalit was captured after the Israeli military for the past month has stepped up its campaign of targeted assassinations of Palestinians accused of carrying out armed attacks against Israelis. According to the United Nations, Israeli attacks have killed 43 Palestinians and injured more than 100 in Gaza in June. More than one-third of them have been bystanders killed as collateral damage during missile attacks by the Israeli Air Force.
The assault in Gaza is part of the Israeli regimes effort to secure the borders of Israel as a junior imperialist power in the region.
The Israeli government is willing to negotiate with Palestinian leaders who act against terrorism and recognize Israels right to exist, Olmert said June 26. If the Palestinian leadership does not comply, the State of Israel will seek other ways to change the reality, separate ourselves from the Palestinians and shape the borders of Israel, in order for there to always be a stable and permanent Jewish majority in the State of Israel, he stated.
As the Gaza invasion was unfolding, the media said that Tel Aviv and Washington had made progress in pressuring Hamas to recognize Israel. A draft accord has reportedly been reached between the leadership of Hamas and Abbas, a leader of Fatah that ran the PNA until last year. It calls for the creation of a Palestinian state on the territories Tel Aviv occupied after 1967. Hamas has so far refused to recognize, even implicitly, Israels claim to the rest of historic Palestine.
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