Israel interrogated dozens of Fatah-affiliated Palestinians who fled Gaza following clashes with Hamas last week on the whereabouts of captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, Egyptian sources were quoted as saying Friday by the London-based Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat.
The sources said most of those questioned were residents of Gaza City's Sajaiyeh neighborhood, where clashes between Hamas security personnel and members of the Fatah-affiliated Hilles-clan on Saturday left at least 11 people dead and dozens more wounded.
Hamas security forces eventually asserted control in the Fatah stronghold, prompting residents with ties to Mahmoud Abbas' faction to flee the Strip. Many of them made their way to the Nahal Oz terminal at the Israel-Gaza border, where they were rescued by IDF forces and taken into Israel under mortar and machine gun fire.
Twenty-two Palestinians who were injured in the clashes were hospitalized in Israeli jails.
'Israel is very determined to free Shalit'
Thirty-two of the Palestinians were sent back to Gaza, where they were immediately arrested. The rest were eventually allowed by Israel to enter the West Bank.
IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi said Monday that the army knows kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit is alive, where he is being held and by whom.
Speaking before new enlistees in the Military Induction Center, the IDF chief added, "We hope to be able bring this case to an end, as we returned Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser."
The Egyptian sources told Al-Hayat that Ashkenazi's statement was intended to force Hamas to move Shalit to a different location in Gaza, a move that, according to them, would help Israel find the soldier.
"Israel is very determined to free Shalit, and this is causing Hamas to become more extreme in its demands," one of the sources said, adding "Hamas is trying, with the big fish it caught (referring to Shalit), to break the Israeli army's morale and present a victory that would strengthen its position in Gaza and give it legitimacy.
"Both sides are standing firm in their position: Hamas is demanding the release of all 450 prisoners on the list it has relayed to Israel, while Israel has agreed to free only 71 of them," he said. In this regard, the sources said, Israel is looking for additional ways to pressure Hamas into freeing Shalit.
Meanwhile, the deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, Mousa Abu Marzouk told Al-Hayat "every time Israel further delays the implementation of a prisoner exchange deal, Hamas raises its demands. The deal's implementation is in Israel's hands, as Hamas has presented its demands and will never budge."