Palestinian Militants: Held Israeli OK

The Associated Press
Tuesday, January 9, 2007; 1:37 PM

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- One of the Palestinian militant groups that captured an Israeli soldier last summer said Tuesday that the serviceman is in "good health," the first time it has given details about his condition.

But Abu Mujahid, spokesman for the Palestinian Resistance Committees, said Cpl. Gilad Shalit would not be freed until Israel gives in to demands to release more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

"Gilad Shalit is in good health and is being treated according to Islamic standards of dealing with prisoners of war," he said. "He has been in custody for 6 1/2 months and we are ready to keep him for years, so long as our demands are not met."

He did not elaborate on the "Islamic standards" of treating a prisoner, nor did he offer any proof about Shalit's condition.

The PRC was one of three militant groups linked to the Islamic militant group Hamas that tunneled into Israel from the Gaza Strip on June 25 and captured Shalit. The abduction triggered a five-month Israeli offensive in Gaza, but Shalit has not been publicly seen or heard from since his capture.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said he is prepared to release some of the more than 9,000 Palestinian prisoners Israel is holding, but only after Shalit returns home. Egypt has been trying to mediate a deal, and during a recent trip to Israel, the Egyptian foreign minister said Shalit is still alive.

Abu Mujahid said the militants' haven't softened their demand for the release of 1,000 prisoners, as well as all women, elderly and minors being held by Israel. "These demands won't change, in a day or two or a month or a year," he said.

Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a truce in Gaza in late November, just as internal Palestinian tensions erupted into violence.

More than 30 people have been killed in factional violence between Hamas and Fatah in the past month, including a Hamas militant who died Tuesday from wounds sustained in fighting last week, medical officials said.

The rival Palestinian groups have been locked in a power struggle since the Islamist Hamas defeated the more moderate Fatah in parliamentary elections last year. Hamas controls the legislature and most government functions, while Fatah holds the powerful presidency.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas favors peace talks with Israel, while Hamas rejects the Jewish state's right to exist.

Abbas tried for months to persuade Hamas to join Fatah in a more moderate unity government, but negotiations collapsed in late November, touching off the latest round of infighting. He hopes a more moderate government could induce the West and Israel to lift crippling economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority.

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