July 3, 2006, 1:37 PM (GMT+02:00)
"They do not specify the consequences if their demands are not met. “Military Community 3” issued Monday by Hamas’ armed wing, the Popular
Resistance Committees and Islamic Army, says “If the enemy does not agree to our humanitarian demands, we will regard the case as closed. They add:
“… the enemy will bear full responsibility for future consequences.”
Saturday, July 1, the three groups posted demands for the release of 1,500 Palestinian prisoners including women and minors and the withdrawal of
Israeli troops from Gaza.
DEBKAfile adds: Hamas has raised the stakes in its war of nerves against Israel, and will most probably keep tension high by repeated extensions of
its deadline. Hamas views Israel’s mixed responses to the crisis as betraying vacillation and divided resolve. On the one hand, prime minister Ehud
Olmert and defense minister Amir Peretz, thunder repeatedly that Israel will not succumb to blackmail and reward terrorist hostage-taking by freeing
Palestinian prisoners; on the other, undercover, indirect negotiations are allowed to go forward with Hamas and its kidnap team, implying Israel's
willingness to discuss freeing Palestinian prisoners for the abducted soldier.
The Palestinians are likewise not impressed by the military steps Israel has pursued in the Gaza Strip since Shalit was taken hostage:
1. Despite high-sounding declarations of intent, the IDF does not appear to be searching for the missing soldier or trying to bring the abductors
under direct military pressure. Jerusalem’s sole targeted actions have been confined to diplomacy and got nowhere.
2. After their limited incursion, Israeli armored forces have been more or less stationary and left the Palestinian military build-up in the Gaza
3. The international machine Israel brought to bear on Syria - and through the Syrian ruler on Hamas-Damascus - was easily parried. The statement made
by US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice Sunday night, July 2, telling Israel to beware of a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip is interpreted by
the Palestinians as warning Israel off expanding its military offensive.
Heartened by these developments, the abductors slapped down their trump card, the life of their hostage Gilead Shalit ,Monday, July 3, in a bid to
goad Israel into staging its inevitable military clash clash with the Palestinians sooner rather than later, before Israeli intelligence tracks them
to their lair.
In issuing its ultimatum, Hamas set the pace by proving faster on the draw than Israel in filling the vacuum left by the failed Egyptian mediation. "