Hamas-linked Group Offers Cash Reward for Capture of IDF Soldiers

A Gaza charity headed by the interior minister of Hamas yesterday offered $1.4 million to any Arab citizen of Israel who abducts an Israeli soldier. Palestinians have frequently called on Israeli Arabs to abduct soldiers, but this is the first time money has been offered.

The Waad group from Gaza offered the bounty in an e-mail sent to Palestinian media. The organization, which supports Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, is headed by Hamas' Interior Minister Fathi Hamad. The minister did not return messages seeking comment.

Waad's director, Usama Kahlout, said the bounty was issued in response to an Israeli group's offer to pay Gazans for information on the whereabouts of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured over three years ago by Hamas-allied militants.

The Born to Freedom foundation offered $10 million for information pertaining to Israeli soldiers missing in action or held captive. Activists routinely call phone numbers in Gaza as well as Lebanon looking for leads on missing Israeli soldiers. Israeli intelligence is also believed to call Gazans in search of information.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner met with Shalit's parents in Jerusalem yesterday. The Shalits have French citizenship, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy has offered the family his support.