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Palestinian Militants Demand Israel Release 1,000 Prisoners
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Palestinian militants who kidnapped an Israeli soldier demanded Israel on early Saturday to release 1,000 prisoners held in Israeli jails.


In a joint statement named "Military Statement Number Two," the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades which is an armed wing of the Palestinian ruling Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) and the Islamic Army also demanded Israel end an ongoing military ground offensive in the Gaza Strip.


The three groups claimed the abduction of the Israeli soldier during a cross-border raid on an Israeli army post near the Gaza border on Sunday.


The three armed groups also reiterated a demand in a previous statement -- "Military Statement Number One" -- for the release of all Palestinian women and minors jailed by Israel in return for information on the abducted 19-year-old Gilad Shalit.


But the statement did not say the militants would release Shalit if Israel met their demands.


Israel has already rejected the militants' demand to free imprisoned Palestinian women and minors.


Israeli troops continued a broad ground offensive in Gaza on early Saturday in a bid to rescue Shalit.


It is the first major Israeli military ground operation in the Gaza Strip since Israel pulled out soldiers and settlers from it last summer after 38 years of occupation.


(Xinhua News Agency July 1, 2006)

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