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Hamas released a statement on Friday asserting that Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped nearly two weeks ago, was alive and being treated well and "humanely in accordance with Islamic principles."
The statement called upon the Israeli press and Shalit's family to apply pressure on the Israeli government to concede to the "Palestinians' just demands," according to which 100 female prisoners and 30 long-term prisoners who had already served 20 years in jail would be released in exchange for Shalit.
The Hamas expressed surprise at the Israeli refusal to a prisoner exchange. It noted that in the past, Israel had agreed to release a large number of Hizbullah prisoners in exchange for the "drug dealer" Elhanan Tennenboim.
"Is Tennenboim's life more important?" the statement asked.
Earlier in the day, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter said that if Israel had to release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit, then Israel would do so. An associate of his later clarified that he meant that only if Shalit was returned unconditionally and the Kassam rockets stopped, then there would be a calm that would enable Israeli goodwill gestures such as releasing Palestinian prisoners.
In any case, the Prime Minister's Office insisted that Dichter was not speaking for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who maintained that Shalit be released unconditionally.
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