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Palestinian militants demand release of prisoners

Palestinian leader: Israel aims to destroy Hamas government
Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit was captured Sunday during an attack inside Israel.



JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Three Palestinian militant groups reportedly holding an Israeli soldier hostage issued demands Saturday shortly after an Israeli state-run television station reported that Cpl. Gilad Shalit had been treated by a doctor.

Shalit's abduction on Sunday by Palestinian militants triggered an ongoing military offensive that Israel says is aimed at freeing the soldier.

The groups said they wanted 1,000 Arab prisoners released from Israeli jails, according to a statement faxed to media outlets early Saturday. The statement did not make it clear whether the groups were asking for the prisoners' releases in return for Shalit's release.

The prisoners include women and children.

Israel has flatly rejected any prisoner swap.

Earlier Friday, a doctor told Israeli TV that he has seen the 19-year-old Shalit and treated him for injuries.

The report by the state-run Israel Broadcasting Authority gave no details about Shalit's injuries or condition.

CNN has not independently confirmed the TV report.

Israel on Friday delayed a ground operation in northern Gaza while diplomats worked to end the crisis.

As those talks went on, Israeli warplanes hit the Palestinian Authority's Interior Ministry building in Gaza City, which the Israeli military said was being used "for directing and planning terror activities."

No casualties were reported after the strike, which left the building ablaze. (Watch images from the aftermath of the strikes -- 7:02)

Later Friday, Israeli warplanes attacked a Hamas-affiliated training camp, Abu Rish, near Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, Palestinian sources said. Israel confirmed the airstrike, saying it targeted a Hamas terrorist training camp, which was empty at the time, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman said.

Although the northern Gaza operation has been put off, Israel's ground forces remain in southern Gaza and are continuing to shell targets in northern Gaza.

Daniel Ayalon, Israel's ambassador to the United States, said Thursday on CNN's "The Situation Room" that troops are moving slowly and patiently to avoid "undue misery."

"We're willing to wait," he said. "We will give diplomacy a chance as we have already been."

'Premeditated plan'

In an impassioned sermon at a Gaza mosque, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya accused Israel of a "premeditated plan" to destroy the Hamas-led Palestinian government.

He also tacitly admitted that his government does not have the power to free Shalit as long as Israel is threatening further military action.

"We read what is happening in terms of aggression on our people, and that it is going beyond the abducted soldier," Haniya said. "This comprehensive aggression shows there is a premeditated plan against the people and the legitimate government and the elected" Palestinian Legislative Council.

Haniya said the Israeli military operation was complicating his government's attempts to free Shalit.

"We have contacts to end the crisis in the right way, but the escalation complicates matters," said Haniya. "We demand the end of the aggression on the Palestinian people so matters won't worsen, and [Israel] should stop attacking the Palestinian political system and democracy."

Hamas, whose military wing has carried out dozens of terrorist attacks in Israel, does not recognize Israel's right to exist and calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Israeli intelligence officials said after his abduction that Shalit was being held in southern Gaza, probably in the Khan Yunis area.

He was abducted in a raid Sunday by members of the military wing of Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committee, and a previously unknown group, the Army of Islam.

White House: Restraint 'positive'

At the White House, spokesman Tony Snow praised Israel's restraint as "positive."

"We want the Israelis to practice restraint, and the Palestinians to hand over the soldier," Snow said Friday morning.

Egypt and Qatar had been working to broker a settlement to the crisis. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told the government newspaper al-Ahram late Thursday that the Palestinian ruling faction Hamas had approved a conditional plan for returning Shalit.

However, Mubarak said Israel -- which has rejected calls for an exchange of prisoners -- had not accepted the terms.

Israel has rejected previous calls for a prisoner exchange, saying it would only encourage further abductions.

Residency rights revoked

Israel Friday revoked the Jerusalem residency rights for four Hamas officials -- including the Jerusalem affairs minister -- a day after the Palestinian lawmakers were arrested in the West Bank, according to a spokeswoman for the Israeli Interior Ministry.

Interior Minister Roni Bar-On stated that the ministers cannot be residents of Israel while at the same time holding an active membership in a terror organization that is hostile to the Jewish state, the spokeswoman said.

Palestinian ministers who live in East Jerusalem carry blue Israeli identity cards and enjoy all the benefits of Israeli citizens, including subsidized health care. Those benefits were extended to Palestinians living in East Jerusalem when Israel captured the area during the 1967 Mideast War and annexed it.

Residency was revoked for Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Khaled Abu Arafeh and Hamas parliamentarians Muhammad Abu Teir, Muhammad Totach, and Ahmed A Toun.

Several other airstrikes hit in and around Gaza City early Friday. Israel said it was targeting training camps for Hamas and the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, offices of the Hamas and Fatah movements and what the Israeli military said was a weapons storehouse.

The raids knocked out electrical power to parts of the territory again, as they did before Israeli troops moved into southern Gaza on Wednesday.

Also, Israel Defense Forces said Friday it had targeted a car in Gaza City carrying militants on their way to launch a Qassam rocket at Israel. At least one person was reported injured.

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