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Israel Says It Will Not Negotiate with Hamas for Soldiers' Remains - 2004-05-11


Israel says it will not negotiate for the remains of six soldiers killed in Gaza Tuesday after the militant Islamic group Hamas paraded what it said were the body parts in its possession. The International Committee of the Red Cross has agreed to mediate between the two sides, after a day of heavy fighting in which at least eight Palestinians were also killed and 120 more wounded.

Israel's Security Cabinet on Tuesday ruled out opening negotiations with Hamas, which carried out a roadside bomb blast that killed six soldiers in a neighborhood of Gaza City.

Israeli troops are continuing to conduct searches for the remains of the soldiers, who died when the blast destroyed their explosives laden armored car.

The incident came after Israeli forces, backed by tanks and military helicopters, launched a raid to find and destroy factories used to make rockets and other weapons.

Hamas, which is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations, later displayed pieces of metal and bits of flesh collected from the scene of the explosion, laying them out on the ground.

A Hamas gunman also held up a bloodied burlap bag, which reportedly contained body parts.

Israeli Opposition Labor Party member, Ephraim Sneh, said that the Israeli Army must secure the remains of the soldiers. "The most ardent and important task is to bring back the bodies of the soldiers to the six families who are waiting at this very moment," he added.

His comments came as the Israeli Government sought the intervention of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has reportedly accepted a request to help in retrieving the remains of the soldiers.

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat also issued a statement saying he was in touch with Hamas officials in Gaza with a view to solving the matter, according to what he called religious and humanitarian concerns.

Israeli security officials sent a message through the Palestinian Authority that Hamas could expect punishing reprisals if the remains are not returned.

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