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Peaceful Settlement of Hostage Crisis Possible: Envoy
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China's Middle East envoy Sun Bigan said yesterday that it is still possible to peacefully settle the Palestine-Israel hostage crisis.


"There is a glimmer of hope for the hostage issue to be tackled peacefully as long as the hostage is alive," said Sun while giving a briefing on his just-concluded visits to Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Palestine.


"Attempting to resolve the crisis through military attacks will never work," said Sun, who took the post of the envoy on April 1.


China opposes kidnapping and assassination, he said. "China has urged Palestine to ensure the safety of the hostage and release him as soon as possible."


During his trip Sun also urged Israel to exercise calm and restraint and not to escalate the situation.


Palestinian militants kidnapped 19-year-old Corporal Gilad Shalit on June 25 during a deadly attack on an Israeli army post near the Gaza border, sparking the latest crisis between the two sides.


Israel launched operation "Summer Rain" on June 28 after two days of international mediation failed to secure the release of Cpl. Shalit.


In the wake of the raid, Israeli troops entered the Gaza Strip in the largest incursion into the coastal area since Israel pulled out forces and settlers last summer following a 38-year occupation.


Israel had closed Gaza's borders and sent tanks, troops and aircraft to the Gaza Strip over the past few days in a bid to press Palestinian militants to free the Israeli soldier.


The Palestinian militants have demanded that Israel release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the soldier. They have set Tuesday as the deadline.


Israel has rejected the ultimatum, saying it would not give in to blackmail.


(Xinhua News Agency July 8, 2006)


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