Egypt Says Hamas Conditionally Agrees to Release Israeli Soldier

The Israeli military is continuing air and artillery strikes in the Gaza Strip as part of an operation to secure the release of a soldier kidnapped by Palestinian militants.

But the military says it has delayed a planned ground invasion at the request of Egypt, which has been working to the free the soldier.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said - in remarks published in Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper Thursday - that Hamas militants have agreed to a conditional release of the soldier.

Israel has not commented on Mr. Mubarak's statement, but has said it wants the soldier released without conditions.

Meanwhile, Palestinian hospital officials said a local leader of Islamic Jihad militant group died Friday morning of wounds suffered in an Israeli air strike in Rafah.

Israeli warplanes struck the Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza City early Friday. Israeli artillery also hit targets across the coastal strip.

The U.N. aid chief in the territory, Jan Egeland, said civilians in Gaza are facing a humanitarian crisis unless power is restored to the Gaza Strip. Israel has bombed the region's main power plant.

In the West Bank on Thursday, Israeli forces took into custody more than 60 members of the Palestinians' ruling Hamas party, including seven government ministers.

Israeli spokesman Ra'anan Gissen says his country holds the Hamas government responsible for Sunday's kidnapping of the Israeli soldier. Israeli media say the detained Hamas officials might be swapped for the soldier.

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