'Forget Schalit if IDF launches Gaza op'

Terrorist group threatens to kidnap more soldiers; Hamas says Israel not serious about cease-fire.

Sami Abu Zuhri 224 (photo credit: Channel 2 [file])
Sami Abu Zuhri 224
(photo credit: Channel 2 [file])
One of the groups responsible for the kidnapping of IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit said Wednesday that Israel could "forget" about him if the IDF launched a military operation in the Gaza Strip. The Popular Resistance Committees - an alliance of various Palestinian armed factions - also threatened to kidnap more soldiers to ensure the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. "As soon as an Israeli military operation begins, we will close the file of Gilad Schalit," said Abu Mujahed, spokesman for the PRC. "We will also close the files of the tahdiyeh [period of calm] and the siege. These issues won't be open for negotiations any more." Meanwhile, Hamas and other Palestinian factions reacted with skepticism to the security cabinet's decision to suspend plans of a Gaza invasion in order to give Egyptian-brokered truce efforts more time to succeed. Referring to the planned visit of Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad to Cairo, the Palestinian groups said they would not accept any new conditions set by Israel regarding the Egyptian initiative for achieving a truce. "Israel must accept the Egyptian initiative unconditionally," they added. "Any attempt to set new conditions will be seen as an attempt to sabotage the Egyptian efforts." Hamas officials claimed Israel was "not serious" about achieving a truce with the Palestinians and warned against an IDF operation in the Gaza Strip. Commenting on the cabinet's decision, the Hamas officials also claimed that the US had given Israel a "green light" to launch a massive military operation in Gaza. "Israel wants to foil the truce efforts," said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. "The decision that was taken today by the Israeli government shows that Israel is preparing for a criminal operation against the Gaza Strip. [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert received a green light from the US Administration to carry out the operation during his last visit to Washington." Barhoum said Israel was "exploiting" the silence of the Arabs to carry out its schemes against the Gaza Strip and overthrow the Hamas government. He added that Hamas was prepared for all possible scenarios, including a massive IDF operation. "We are fully prepared to defend our people against any Israeli aggression," he said. "We have also urged all Palestinian factions to be prepared for confronting any new aggression." Sami Abu Zuhri, another Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said the Israeli decision to give the Egyptians more time "proves that Israel is not serious about achieving a truce." Israel, he added, continued to carry out daily attacks on the Gaza Strip, set new conditions for a truce and talk about preparations for a military operation. "All this proves that the Israelis are not serious," he said. "Hamas is prepared for all options. Either we have a truce that would end the aggression and lift the siege, or we will have to confront the aggression." He added that Israel's threats to launch a military operation in the Gaza Strip were aimed at "blackmailing" the Palestinians, especially Hamas. "In any case, we are taking the threats very seriously," the Hamas spokesman said. Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, warned Wednesday that an Israeli military attack on the Gaza Strip would "sabotage" efforts to reach peace. "Escalation means driving the region and its people toward more violence, anarchy and bloodshed," he said. He also warned that failure of the truce efforts would have serious repercussions for all parties.