Missing Israeli settler killed

2006-06-29 07:41

Gaza City - A Palestinian militant group says it executed an 18-year-old Jewish settler kidnapped in the West Bank, as Israeli forces rounded up dozens of Palestinian cabinet ministers and lawmakers from Hamas, increasing pressure on the Islamic militants to release a captured Israeli soldier.

Israeli security officials said the body of Eliahu Asheri was found buried near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza said they had executed Asheri.

Another Israeli kidnapped

Israeli security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he was shot in the head, and they believed he was killed on Sunday, shortly after he was abducted. The PRC had said it would execute the hostage if Israel did not halt its invasion of Gaza.

Militants said they had kidnapped another Israeli, and police said they had a missing person report about a 62-year-old Israeli from the central Israeli city of Rishon Lezion.

Palestinian officials arrested

Meanwhile, Israeli forces arrested seven Palestinian cabinet ministers and 20 Hamas lawmakers.

Palestinian security officials said Israeli forces detained three cabinet ministers, as well as four lawmakers in Ramallah. Earlier reports that deputy prime minister Nasser Shaer was arrested were incorrect. Several others were arrested in the town of Jenin, they said.

Israeli media reported a round-up of Hamas lawmakers in Jerusalem and other locations. The Hamas mayor of the West Bank town of Qalqiliya and his deputy were also detained, security officials said.

Trade for the captured soldier

Army Radio said the Hamas leaders might be used to trade for the captured soldier.

Israel blames Hamas for the Sunday attack in which two soldiers were killed and a third captured when militants tunnelled under the border and attacked an army post, setting off the invasion.

No injuries

Before daybreak on Thursday, witnesses said Israeli tanks and bulldozers moved into northern Gaza, stopping about 200 metres inside Palestinian territory across from the Jebaliya refugee camp.

No clashes were reported. The military however denied its forces had moved into northern Gaza.

Despite the size of the Israeli operation, with large troop movements, artillery barrages and many air strikes over two days, no one was hurt.

Israel's concerns

Israel's concern goes beyond the rescue of the soldier and the negative precedent abducting soldiers would set.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government is alarmed by the firing of homemade rockets at Israeli communities around Gaza and support for Hamas in the Arab world, especially from Syria.

Olmert threatened harsher action to free the soldier, though he said there was no plan to reoccupy Gaza. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas deplored the incursion as a "crime against humanity".