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Israel Poised for Gaza Assault as Kidnappers of Soldier Issue Demands

Israel is poised for an assault on the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip, following the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier. The kidnappers have issued their first demands.

Israel is massing armor and troops on the Gaza border and is threatening to strike at the leaders of the Palestinian government, controlled by the Islamic militant group Hamas. Israeli spokesman Mark Regev says Israel's demands are clear.

"The immediate, unequivocal, unconditional release of the serviceman," he said.

Israel holds Hamas responsible because gunmen from the group were involved in the Sunday kidnapping of the 19-year-old Israeli corporal from an Israeli Army base on the Gaza border. Israel says it was an act of aggression, in light of the withdrawal of all soldiers and settlers from Gaza last August. Therefore, the army is poised for harsh retaliation.

"This is legitimate under the right of every nation state for self-defense," said Regev.

Hamas has urged Israel to resolve the standoff peacefully.

"The Palestinian government is making an effort to resolve this problem," Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad told Israel Radio in fluent Hebrew. He says Hamas has urged the kidnappers to treat the soldier well. At the same time, the government has not publicly called for his release.

The Hamas military wing and two other groups holding the soldier have issued their first demands. They say Israel will not receive any information about the captive soldier until Palestinian women and children under the age of 18 are released from Israeli prisons. That would total about 500 people. Israel rejected the demand, saying it would not negotiate with terrorists.