Palestinian terror groups that abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit gave Israel until 6 a.m. on Tuesday to meet their demands for the release of Palestinian prisoners, threatening unspecified consequences if it refuses.
"Military Communique 3" Issued on Monday by Hamas' armed wing and two other factions said: "If the enemy does not agree to our humanitarian demands ... We will regard this case as closed."
In previous statements, the groups demanded that Israel, as a first stage, release Palestinian women and youths in its prisons in exchange for information about Corporal Gilad Shalit, kidnapped by gunmen in a cross-border raid on June 25.
The groups—Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committees and the previously unknown Islamic Army—have also called on Israel to free 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
"We give the Zionist enemy until 6 a.m., Tomorrow, Tuesday, the fourth of July," The latest communique said.
Unless their demands were met, the factions said, "the enemy will bear full responsibility for future consequences".
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said he would not bend to "extortionist" demands to release prisoners.
PM, defense minister discuss ultimatum
Officials at the prime minister's office are looking into the ultimatum, but have decided not to issue a public response at this point. Deliberations regarding the document are being held at the highest levels and the statement is believed to be authentic.
Jerusalem officials said Monday that they believe the prime minister will not revise his position regarding negotiations with terror organizations, and that the ultimatum is not likely to be met.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was in Moscow on Monday for talks with her Russian counterpart, as tensions between Israel and the Palestinians soared over an Israeli soldier captured more than a week ago.
Livni told Russia's Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily that Israel was counting on the world community to put pressure on the Palestinian leadership in Gaza and on Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.
Associated Press and Ronny Sofer contributed to the report