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Monday, July 03, 2006


Gaza, 3 July (AKI) - A delegation of Egyptian peace mediators has met the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, abducted by militants one week ago, and has threatened to suspend its mediation unless the Hamas leadership respond by late Monday to an ultimatum concerning the solidier's release. A medic has treated Shalit for three bullet wounds, Palestinian sources said, quoted by the the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.

The militants holding Shalit on Monday issued a statement saying they would give Israel until early Tuesday to free Palestinian prisoners. The statement, signed by Hamas' military wing and two other groups said Israel would otherwise have to face the consequences, without elaborating.

Early on Monday, a small force of Israeli tanks, armoured personnel carriers and bulldozers entered northern Gaza, media reports said. The operation, called 'Spearhead' is intended to conduct 'pinpoint' operations against Kassam rocket launchers, destroy 'terror infrastructure,' locate tunnels and prevent the laying of explosives along the border fence with Israel, the Jerusalem Post daily reported, adding that the length of the operation is unknown.

Large numbers of Israeli army troops have been massing on the border with northern Gaza, ready for an order to invade and take over areas where militants are firing rockets at Israeli towns. Israeli airforce strikes on Monday hit two buildings in Gaza. The target was a building used by the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades - an armed offshoot of Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement, which was allegedly being used as headquarters for planning terror activities, the Israeli army said.

UN secretary general Kofi Annan on Monday reiterated his concern at the situation in Gaza, especially the continuing Israeli military action, last week's bombing of the Palestinian prime minister's offices, the seizure of numerous Palestinian officials in Gaza, and the humanitarian situation following last week's destruction by Israeli airstrikes of key infrastructure.
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