The world watches and waits fearing that this situation will certainly end badly. Hamas must return the kidnapped soldier without conditions. To expect the release of prisoners in exchange, just reinforces to the world that the kidnapping of Shalit was sanctioned by Hamas to start with. Israel can no sooner negotiate with Hamas, the so called “legitimate ruling party of Palestine” as it could with Hezbollah or al-Qaeda. Damascus, Hamas central, seems hell bent on pushing the region back to Israeli occupation at the expense of the Palestinian people!!!

Militants gave Israel 24 hours starting Monday to begin releasing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, implying they would kill an abducted Israeli soldier if their demands were not met.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected any negotiations with the militants, and the army pressed ahead with its Gaza offensive. Privately, though, some Israeli officials said the government had not ruled out any options to win Cpl. Gilad Shalit’s freedom.

Israel has pounded Gaza with airstrikes and artillery shells for nearly a week in an unsuccessful effort to force the militants to release Shalit. Israel sent a small force of tanks into northern Gaza on Monday, raising fears it was gearing up for a large invasion.

After Shalit was seized in a June 25 raid on an army post that left two comrades dead, his captors demanded Israel free all imprisoned Palestinian women and minors in exchange for information about him. They later increased their demand to include the release of a further 1,000 prisoners.

Early Monday, Hamas’ military wing _ one of the three groups holding him _ issued a statement giving Israel until 6 a.m. Tuesday (11 p.m. EDT Monday) to “start” freeing the prisoners.

Tags : hamas, terrorism, israel, shalit, gaza