Rice. 'Don't let situation escalate'
WASHINGTON – The United States administration called Monday on the abductors of Corporal Gilad Shlait to release him immediately. The US has no contacts with Hamas, and carries out its diplomatic connections with the Palestinian Authority via its ambassadors in Tel Aviv and Cairo, and through its Consul General in Jerusalem.
Washington officials told Ynet that the US administration was aware of the possible Israeli responses in Gaza if the kidnapped soldier is not released. "There is an American understanding for Israel's moves, but they are not specifically briefed on operations, as not to appear as the ones who have given the green light for action in the Strip," a US official explained.
The IDF is preparing for every possible scenario and redeploys forces in northern Gaza Strip, including dozens of tanks, APCs, and heavy equipment. Thousands of soldiers are waiting in the 'small city'
US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack urged restraint in the situation and repeated that Washington felt "it is the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority government to stop all acts of violence."
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also urged Israel late on Monday to give diplomacy a chance to win Shalit's release.
"There really needs to be an effort now to try and calm the situation, not to let the situation escalate and to give diplomacy a chance to work to try to get this release," Rice told reporters in Scotland.
The American consul general in Jerusalem, Jack Walles, is also exerting pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the matter. In Washington, Israeli Ambassador Danny Ayalon briefed senior National Security Council officials on developments in Israel.
The Israeli diplomatic efforts are aimed at garnering international recognition in the fact that the Palestinians have violated Israel's sovereignty and brought to an escalation in the conflict, a step that requires an Israeli response.
"The Americans have a clear picture of what is happening, who is to blame and who is the provocateur," Ayalon said.
Simultaneously, Egyptian mediators have stepped in, in a bid to try and resolve the crisis. Defense Minister Amir Peretz spoke Monday with Egypt's Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman, and stressed the severity Israel attributes to the kidnapping. Peretz asked Suleiman to intervene in order to bring to Shalit's release. The two ministers have also exchanged information relevant to the abduction.
Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report