The armed wing of Hamas on Saturday threatened to seize more Israelis as to use alongside Gilad Shalit as bargaining chips to free Palestinians in Israeli jails.
In a statement faxed to reporters, a spokesman for the Izz-as-Din al-Qassam brigades, Abu Obeidah, said a prisoner swap was not Hamas' only hope, and that the group had a "strong strategy" for securing their release.
"The prisoners' deal is not the last and only hope for Hamas to release the prisoners," Obeida said. "The hope is with the men of resistance who will continue their struggle until releasing all the prisoners,"
Talks to free Shalit, an IDF soldier in Hamas captivity since 2006, in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians prisoners have been deadlocked for months, with each side blaming the other for the failure to strike a deal.
"Useless, absurd peace talks failed to free the prisoners, but our fighters will release them by all means, including armed resistance," Obeidah said.
Obeidah's comments follow fears that Hamas may attempt to abduct more Israelis.
Last week hundreds of Israelis cut short vacations in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula after the government warned that Hamas was planning to seize tourists.
Following the warning, Hamas took the rare step of ordering the temporary closure of hundreds of smuggling beneath the Gaza border.
Journalists in Gaza said Hamas issued the order in response to an unusual request from Egyptian authorities, amid rumors - apparently false - that an Israeli had already been abducted in Sinai and was to be taken to Gaza via a tunnel.
Recent weeks have seen an upsurge in tensions between Israel and Hamas following a series of gun battles on the Israel-Gaza border, some of them fatal. Israeli planes have also bombed Gaza in retaliation for rocket attacks.
In the most recent clash, IDF troops shot dead a Palestinian man on Friday, who the army said was attempting to plant a bomb along the border fence.
On Saturday Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyah called on Palestinians in the West Bank to step up their "resistance" to Israel. In a speech to mark Palestinian Prisoners' Day, Haniyeh urged Palestinians to resist Israel "by all possible means" in order to force an outcome in talks for a prisoner swap.
Hamas parliamentarians, meanwhile, called on the organization's militants to increase the guard on Shalit.
On Wednesday a German mediator reportedly called for international intervention to press for a deal to free the 23-year-old Israeli, expressing frustration at Israel's refusal to accept terms for an exchange.
Click to view image: 'cdea88271d03-hamas_rally.jpg'
|Liveleak on Facebook|