Ministers: Hamas to be hit hard if Schalit killed

Ministers warn of dire consequences after group official publicly threatens soldier's life.

Hamas abu marzouk 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas abu marzouk 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Kadima cabinet ministers on Sunday warned Hamas of dire consequences if any harm comes to kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit. The warning came after top Hamas leaders publicly threatened his life. Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas's political bureau, told the Kuwaiti Al-Qabas newspaper Sunday that the group would negotiate with Israel over Schalit's bones if Hamas prisoners were not released. Hamas lawmaker Mushir al-Masri warned Schalit's parents Saturday that Israel was jeopardizing their son by not agreeing to release the Palestinian prisoners. "We emphasize to the Schalit family that [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert and the people around him are gambling with their son's case," Masri said in a statement posted on a pro-Hamas Web site. "Schalit will not see the light of freedom and will not see his mother and father as long as our prisoners remain in jail." The Kadima ministers said they thought Hamas was bluffing about giving up their top strategic asset, but that if the Islamists were serious, it was not in Hamas's best interests to exercise the threats. "Any harm at all to Gilad Schalit would result in Hamas being hit hard," a Kadima minister said. "Hamas will bear full responsibility for his fate. They are just trying to pressure us, but I think they know the price they will pay." Olmert himself hinted at Schalit in Sunday's cabinet meeting when he said that it was not in Hamas's best interests to continue with terrorism, noting the sniper fire on Friday that wounded Public Security Minister Avi Dichter's bureau chief, Mati Gill. "This incident is an example and expression of the continuing Hamas terrorism," Olmert said. "Only Hamas is responsible for terrorism in the Gaza Strip. One must understand that Hamas controls Gaza and from our point of view, it is also responsible for all acts of terrorism, all aggressive activity and all shooting that originates there. It is altogether unimportant who claimed responsibility for this or that incident. Hamas, and Hamas alone, is responsible for what happens in the Gaza Strip. It bears the responsibility and it will answer for the results of these terrorist acts, which are designed to hurt Israelis, whether they intended to hit a specific target or are merely claiming this after the fact in order to pat themselves on the back." Olmert will meet at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem Monday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. It will be the first meeting between the leaders in two months. When Olmert was asked by the foreign press two weeks ago why he had not met for so long with Abbas, he hinted that it was the choice of the Palestinian leader. The heads of the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qurei, who have met much more often, will also meet again on Monday. The question of whether Israel should make further concessions to the Palestinians was debated at the cabinet meeting. Dichter and Industry, Trade, and Labor Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) blasted Olmert for continuing with diplomatic negotiations in the face of continued terrorism and rocket attacks. "The negotiations have been handled in an absurd manner in which every Israeli minister says what he is willing to give up, while the Palestinians say nothing about what they are willing to give up," Yishai said. "People have gotten used to several rockets and mortars a day," Dichter complained. "In Ashkelon, 120,000 people had to go to bomb shelters when the Color Red warning went off and the public acted with indifference. If my aide hadn't gotten hit, the sniper fire near Kibbutz Nir Am wouldn't even have made news. The IDF decided to stop the rocket attacks, but nothing has happened." Defense Minister Ehud Barak called upon "ministers who are not in charge of security" to stop offering their advice on the matter. Livni called upon "ministers who are not in charge of negotiations" to stop offering their advice on the matter. AP contributed to this report.