The Security Cabinet convened an emergency session Sunday night to discuss an Israeli response to Shalit’s kidnapping in a Palestinian attack on an army post bordering southern Gaza in the early morning hours.
It was decided to give the IDF the green light to prepare all the forces necessary for a military operation against Gaza terror cells. As of 9:00 p.m. large amounts of Golani and Givati Brigade infantry troops were amassing on the Israeli side of the Gaza security fence.
In addition, the Cabinet decided that no Palestinian security prisoners would be released from Israeli jails, effectively closing the door on any negotiations with Shalit’s captors.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also told IDF commanders to assure at all costs that Shalit’s captors were not able to move him out of the Gaza Strip.
Olmert said after the meeting that Israel would not “pass the event by silently,” promising a powerful military response that “wouldn’t be a matter of [only] one or two days.”
# Olmert: PA responsible for attack
The Cabinet said that no one would have immunity from such a response, but direct hits on Hamas leaders were ruled out.
If Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas were to help free the soldier, he would pave the way to becoming a partner in the peace process, said Cabinet members. If he doesn’t, he won’t even be a party to the discussion, they added.
Earlier Sunday, Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin directly contacted Abbas asking him to help free the soldier.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz, with Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz at his side, told reporters Sunday evening that Israel “will do all” to return the kidnapped Shalit, 19, from Mitzpeh Hila in the Galilee, and warned Palestinian terrorists they would pay a “painful price” for Sunday’s deadly attack on the IDF post.
A senior officer told Shalit’s family that Gilad was led away “against his will” while he was “on his feet,” and that blood stains on his battle vest, which was left behind at the scene of the attack, indicated that he sustained chest and stomach wounds.
Palestinian news sources reported that Shalit was receiving medical treatment for serious wounds to his stomach and his chest. The report added that his captors were preparing to exchange him for Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli custody.
Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Shaer on Sunday called on Shalit’s captors to treat him well and release him.
Earlier, Hamas government spokesman Ghazi Hamad, speaking in Arabic and Hebrew at a news conference in Gaza City Sunday afternoon, said the government had information on the soldier’s capture only from the Israeli side.
“We are calling on the resistance groups, if they do have the missing soldier…to protect his life and treat him well,” Hamad said.
He said the Palestinian government was in contact with local and foreign officials, including Egyptian, to try to find a solution.
Halutz confirmed at a press conference that Shalit was still alive. “As far as we know he is still alive,” said Halutz, adding “Hamas bears responsibility for the soldier’s wellbeing.”
Shalit was kidnapped early Sunday morning after a coordinated attack by at least three Palestinian factions killed an IDF officer and soldier and wounded four others near the Kerem Shalom crossing in the southern Gaza Strip.
In response to the kidnapping, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas invited leaders of various Palestinian terror organizations to his office and informed them that he had received an ultimatum from the Israeli government warning that if Shalit was not released safely within a matter of hours, IDF forces would enter Gaza and the organizations would bear responsibility.
Hamas – although it did not formally claim the abduction – had announced earlier that it would not provide Israel with any information on the soldier’s whereabouts without getting “something in return.” Egypt has contacted Hamas, saying that it was willing to broker negotiations between Hamas and Israel to secure the soldier’s release.