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Hamas PM Says He's Working Hard to Secure Israeli Soldier's Release


The prime minister of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority says he is working hard to end the current crisis triggered by the abduction of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants.

However, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said after Friday prayers in Gaza the Israeli military offensive aimed at securing the soldier's release is complicating the situation.

The Israeli military is continuing air and artillery strikes in the Gaza Strip, but has delayed a planned ground invasion at the request of Egypt.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said -- in remarks published in Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper Thursday -- that Hamas has agreed to a conditional release of the soldier.

Israel has not commented on Mr. Mubarak's statement, but has said it wants the soldier released without conditions.

The Palestinian prime minister also assured his people that the government is continuing to function, even though nearly a third of his cabinet ministers are being held in Israeli custody.

Mr. Haniyeh accused Israel of trying to use the soldier's abduction as a pretext to try to topple the Hamas-led government.

Israeli forces Thursday took into custody more than 60 Hamas members, including seven government ministers in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

In another development, Israel Friday revoked the Jerusalem residency of four Palestinian lawmakers who are Hamas members.

Israel's Interior Ministry says it acted after the expiration of a 30-day deadline given to the four to either quit the militant group or resign their posts.

The men face the possibility of being expelled from the occupied Arab East Jerusalem.
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