The leader of Hamas said Friday that his group is making every effort to seize Israeli soldiers as bargaining chips for the release of Palestinians in Israeli jails.
The declaration by Sheik Ahmed Yassin came a day after a prisoner swap between Israel and the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah. Israel released more than 400 prisoners, the vast majority Palestinians, in exchange for an Israeli businessman and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers. The swap boosted the standing of Hezbollah in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and appeared to put Hamas on the defensive.
Yassin appeared to be trying to explain why Hamas – unlike Hezbollah – has not brought about prisoner releases in recent years. “The (Palestinian) factions will spare no effort to kidnap Israeli soldiers and they tried many times, but the Israeli soldier today is cautious as a bird about its chick,” Yassin told reporters.
Yassin said he believes Israel will only free Palestinian prisoners under pressure. “There is no solution to the prisoner issue except with the kidnapping of soldiers of the enemy and exchanging them with our own prisoners,” he said.
Yassin said Hamas’ military wing “planned and still plans and will plan” kidnappings.
Yassin served several years in Israeli prisons for ordering the abductions of Israeli soldiers. He was released by Israel in 1997, in exchange for two Israeli agents involved in a failed attempt to kill a Hamas operative in Jordan.