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Hamas Deadline Declared and Lapsed for Shalit

Hamas issued a communique giving a 6AM 4July06 deadline for Israel to agree to their demands of releasing over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. Israel promptly rejected the ultimatum. “We will not give in to any blackmailing or to any ultimatum put forth by any terror organisation, and in this specific case, by Hamas,” said Dan Halutz, the Israeli Army’s chief of staff.

The Hamas demand did not specify what would occur after 6AM local time, but there is speculation that Cpl. Gilad Shalit will be executed. Hamas member Abu Ubaida suggested that Israeli civilian targets will be increasingly sought out if the IDF does not pull out of Gaza. “If its operations continue, we will hit the occupation targets we were previously reluctant to strike,” he said, referring to Israeli civilians. But Hamas has never had a track record of being reluctant to attack Israeli civilians.

But Hamas’ government spokesman Ghazi Hamad insisted that Israel solve the crisis diplomatically. Said Hamad, “Since the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier we have called for the need to protect his life and solve the problem through calm diplomatic channels…we think there remains a chance to reach an acceptable formula.”

The crisis, as Hamad and his leaders know, did not begin through calm diplomatic channels. It began with a Hamas tunnel raid that included two IDF soldiers killed, several wounded and the injured Cpl. Gilad Shalit dragged through a blasted hole in the security barrier separating southern Gaza from Israel. Israel steadfastly rejects as an ‘acceptable formula’ any exchange of prisoners for Shalit, especially nearly 1,500, concluding that it will only guarantee further kidnappings seeking productive exchanges.

The conflict is getting much attention from outside the immediate region. Recently released from prison after his conviction in the 2002 Bali bombings, Abu Bakar Bashir, the leader of Southeast Asia’s premiere al-Qaeda affiliate, Jemaah Islamiyah, called for Indonesia to send terrorists to fight Israel. Said Bashir, “Israel is the enemy of Allah. So the Indonesian government should send holy warriors there.”

The UN chastised Israel for attacks on civilian buildings, namely the power station and Hamas’ PA prime minister’s offices as well as the ministry of the interior. But the lines between civilian and military are at best blurred when the elected civilian post is headed up by members of a terrorist organization, such as Hamas.

In a statement, the European Union called for Israel to release all Hamas officials they have arrested as part of Operation Summer Rains, “including eight Cabinet ministers and 26 politicians” so far. The EU statement also called for the end of terrorist activities, including the firing of rockets into Israeli villages.

As the Hamas-imposed deadline passes, an increase in terrorist attacks can be expected to follow in short order, perhaps with more kidnappings. Hopefully, this reaction will not be accompanied by an execution video of Gilad Shalit.