Israel Angered By Hamas Video on Captured Soldier Gilad Shalit

Israel has reacted angrily to Hamas releasing an animated video taunting the father of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Shalit has been held in Gaza since June 2006 and is at the centre of complex negotiations for a prisoner exchange.

Those protracted talks, which have been facilitated by a German mediator, are currently stalled and the video released Sunday was seen as an attempt by Hamas to put pressure on the Israeli government.

The short video shows Noam Shalit wandering the streets of Tel Aviv with a picture of his son Gilad, and features a real audio recording of the young soldier which was published by Hamas last September.

The video inspired a predictably angry response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office.

"This is another cowardly action by Hamas aimed at helping its leadership avoid making a decision about the recent mediation proposal," the prime minister's office said.

Israeli sources say Hamas has yet to respond positively to Israel's latest offer to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Months of talks have centered on a core of senior militants imprisoned for notorious terror attacks. It is thought Netanyahu is unwilling to release this group and the talks have since become bogged down.

The video shows Shalit's father finally being confronted by a coffin draped with an Israeli flag, a disturbing image designed as a warning of what might happen if a deal is not concluded.

The cartoon ends with the words, "There is still hope."

Noam Shalit Responds to Hamas Video

Noam Shalit told Israel's newspaper Yedioth Aharanot, "It is better if Hamas leaders would focus less on video presentations and would be more concerned about the interests of their prisoners and the public in Gaza."

Meanwhile in the West Bank today a senior Hamas military commander was killed during a gun battle with Israeli forces sent to arrest him.

The shootout took place as soldiers surrounded a house in a village near Hebron. Hamas has had strong support in Hebron, which has a reputation for being a conservative city.

Ali Sweiti was wanted for allegedly killing an Israeli border policeman six years ago and was accused by Israel of leading an active Hamas military cell in the area. According to the IDF he refused to surrender and began shooting at Israeli forces. Israeli troops returned fire and deployed a military bulldozer to demolish the house.

In recent years Palestinian Authority security services loyal to the moderate president Mahmoud Abbas have cooperated with Israel in attempts to limit Hamas activities in the West Bank.

Sunday they uncovered a large arms cache in the city of Nablus which they claim belonged to Hamas and was intended for use in attacks against Israeli settlers and soldiers.

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