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Palestinian Militants Claim to Have Kidnapped West Bank Settler


A Palestinian militant group involved in the abduction of an Israeli soldier in Gaza now says it has also kidnapped a Jewish settler in the West Bank.

The Popular Resistance Committee made the claim late Monday, but did not provide any evidence.

Israeli radio quoted relatives of the settler as saying the man did not return home Monday night, and that a search is under way for him.

Israeli troops with tanks and armored vehicles have been massing along the border with the Gaza Strip since the soldier's abduction.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered the army to prepare for an offensive after rejecting Palestinian militant groups' demand to release all Palestinian women from Israeli jails in exchange for information about the missing soldier.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has asked Israel to give diplomacy a chance to free the soldier. She also said "there needs to be an effort not to escalate the situation."

Rice was speaking to reporters while traveling to Pakistan late Monday.

The soldier was abducted Sunday during an attack by Hamas-linked militants on an Israeli military post near the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned Sunday's raid, and the Hamas-led Palestinian government demanded the militants release the Israeli soldier.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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