Hamas: IDF arrests put Gilad Shalit in danger
Spokesman: Shalit won't stay safe while our leaders are harmed; Israel rounds up 10 Hamas officials in West Bank.
Hamas threatened on Thursday to harm abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in response to Israel's arrest earlier in the day of a number of the Islamist militant group's leaders in the West Bank.
"We won't agree to the harming of our prisoners and leaders while Shalit remains safe. Our treatment of him will be similar," Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha told Al-Arabiya TV.
Israel rounded up 10 Hamas leaders in the West Bank early Thursday, two days after indirect talks between Israel and the Islamic militant group on a deal to secure Shalit's release broke down.
Among those detained were four Hamas lawmakers, a university professor and a former Hamas deputy prime minister.
Taha also blasted the removal by Israel Prison Service officials of Hamas prisoners' TV sets and radios, which he vowed would not influence the group. The move came after a special ministerial committee urged the government on Wednesday to strip Palestinians incarcerated in Israel of some of their rights in the wake of the failed talks over Shalit.
The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that the Hamas officials arrested early Thursday were involved in restoring the group's administrative branch. Hamas in the West Bank has been the target of a crackdown by Israel and the security forces of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the past two years, ever since the militants seized Gaza by force.
Ahmed Bahar, a Hamas leader in Gaza, denounced the arrests as "immoral blackmail by the Zionist occupation."
Meanwhile, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement, on Thursday said two of its men died in a missile strike in central Gaza, close to the border fence with Israel.
But an Israeli military spokeswoman said: "There was no attack of any kind from our side."
Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had hoped to secure the release of Shalit before a new government is formed, possibly within days.
To that end, he dispatched two senior envoys to Cairo over the weekend to try to clinch an Egyptian-brokered deal with Hamas, which rules Gaza and has no direct ties with Israel.
But the envoys returned to Israel without a deal in hand, and on Tuesday Olmert declared that Israel would not free all of the hundreds of Palestinian prisoners the Islamic militants demanded in exchange.
Some were involved in attacks that killed dozens of Israelis, and Olmert insisted that there were red lines that Israel will not cross.
Prime Minister-deisgnate Benjamin Netanyahu, who is expected to partner with hawkish parties in Israel's new government, has not commented on the failed release efforts or how he plans to deal with Shalit's case.
Israel has vowed not to lift its blockade of Gaza until Shalit is returned home. That could seriously impede reconstruction there after Israel's recent military offensive because building materials and equipment won't be able to enter the territory, home to 1.4 million Palestinians.
The continued blockade could also hamper efforts to cement a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, which in turn would carry the threat of a sudden escalation in the low-level violence that has continued since the war ended on Jan. 18.
On Wednesday, Shalit's father, Noam, blamed Olmert for failing to free his son and said the family would dismantle a protest tent it set up outside Olmert's residence on Saturday - 1,000 days since the serviceman was captured.
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