Hamas says it may consider Israeli soldier's release
* Story Highlights
* Hamas leadership says it won't release Gilad Shalit as part of cease-fire
* But it may consider freeing soldier, who was 19 when captured June 25,
* Israeli political leaders have been under pressure to secure Shalit's
* Right-wing Benjamin Netanyahu says he hopes to form Israeli unity
(CNN) -- The Palestinian militant group Hamas said Monday that it is willing to
consider the release of an Israeli soldier who was seized in a cross-border
raid more than two years ago.
But the Hamas leadership of Gaza will not release Gilad Shalit as part of a
broader cease-fire agreement with Israel, according to a statement released
Monday from Hamas political official Raafat Naseef.
Hamas is a fundamentalist Palestinian Islamic group whose military wing has
attacked Israel. The United States and Israel consider it a terrorist
organization, but it also operates a social services network.
Hamas is in control of Gaza after winning parliamentary elections in 2006, and
in 2007, a campaign of violence forced the Fatah movement led by Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas out of Gaza.
The matter of Shalit was one of three issues that Hamas sought to "clarify" its
commitment to in the statement.
It said the clarifications were "in light of recent developments which are
concurrent with the Cairo dialogues" -- a reference to Egypt's attempts to
broker a larger, more detailed cease-fire between Israel and the Hamas
leadership of Gaza.
Shalit was 19 when he was captured June 25, 2006, by Palestinian militants from
Gaza, including those from Hamas.
The militants tunneled into Israel and attacked an Israeli army outpost near
the Gaza-Israel-Egypt border, killing two other soldiers in the assault.
Israel immediately launched a military incursion into Gaza to rescue Shalit,
Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been under pressure to secure
Shalit's release as part of a broader cease-fire deal with Hamas.
Israel temporarily halted its recent three-week military operation in Gaza and
declared a unilateral cease-fire that did not include Shalit's release as a
condition. Hamas later declared its own unilateral cease-fire.
Earlier this month, Olmert said recent media reports about the negotiations to
secure the Shalit's release were "exaggerated and damaging."
Last week, Israel held elections for a new government which the centrist Kadima
with just one seat more than the right-wing Likud both parties are now seeking
to form a ruling coalition.
The strong showing of other right-wing parties -- including Yisrael Beytenu and
the Orthodox Shas movement -- means Likud has more natural allies.
Liked leader Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday: "We have a government in our
hands, but we want a broader one."
He added that he will negotiate with other parties, including Kadima, "to form
a broad national unity government."
"With God's help, I shall head the coming government," he said. "I am sure that
I can manage to put together a good, broad-based and stable government that
will be able to deal with the security crisis and the economic crisis."
Netanyahu -- who served as prime minister from 1996 to 1999 -- has supported
the expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank and has opposed making
further territorial concessions in hope of ending the decades-old
CNN's Ben Wedeman and Tracy Doueiry contributed to this report.
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