Charge Your Voice

Find Your Voice!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Broadcast: 03/07/2006

TONY JONES: Well, it's now nine days since the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit and as the tension increases on the Gaza border, so too do the ransom demands. Militants have set a 24-hour deadline for the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners before they'll free the captured soldier. Israel has rejected the ultimatum; instead deploying its military might in a series of air raids and incursions. Our Middle East correspondent Matt Brown reports from Gaza.

MATT BROWN, MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT: Israel has once again invaded Palestinian territory and rolled into Gaza. The second incursion within a week is taking place in the north of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military says its tanks and troops are looking for explosive devices and tunnels dug under the border with Israel. Overnight, a building being used by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an armed offshoot of President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, was hit in an air strike. Israel says the building was being used to store weapons. Another building used by the Brigades was also hit in the overnight raids, and the bodies of two of the three Palestinians killed yesterday were brought to a hospital in Rafah. They were shot by Israeli troops near the Gaza airport. Despite the growing pressure on the Palestinian leadership, there's still no sign of a backdown.

MAN #1: Your aggression against our people - this will lead to nothing and this may be reflected negatively on the life of the soldiers, so you have to be very, very careful and you have to stop your aggression.

MATT BROWN: The militants holding the captured Israeli soldier have issued an ultimatum, demanding that 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel be released before they'll hand over the soldier. They've given Israel less than 24 hours to comply.

GHAZI HAMAD, PALESTINIAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: Israel will not reward acts of terrorism and terrorism will not be paid.

MATT BROWN: But while Israel says publicly that it won't negotiate for Corporal Gilad Shalit's release, Hamas leaders say that behind the scenes, a deal is in progress.

HAIM RAMON, ISRAELI JUSTICE MINISTER (TRANSLATION): The Zionist enemy is still being stubborn. They were originally refusing to give anything in return for releasing the soldier, and then, they were talking about releasing the number that they see fit, at a time they see fit, and the Palestinian resistance cannot accept that. The situation must be clear and precise, and, at the very least, they need to release, in the first stage, the children and women prisoners in Israeli jails.

MATT BROWN: At this funeral for a Hamas man killed in an air strike on the weekend, the mourners are adamant - Israel must do a deal.

MAN #2: This is a prisoner of war; it's not a kidnapped soldier. You have to end this suffering. You have to end this suffering. You have to end this war. We know, we get bored of this bloodshed.

MATT BROWN: The Palestinian cemetery near the border with Israel - reserved for the bodies of martyrs - is expanding fast. Outside the northern Gaza town of Betanun, Israeli tanks stand guard on the ridgeline. Armoured bulldozers are clearing the fields below. At least one militant operating on the edge of Betanun has already been killed by Israeli forces. Unmanned spy planes, fighter jets, and attack helicopters have been crisscrossing the sky here and Israeli artillery has opened up on the fields just outside the town. Matt Brown, Lateline.


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