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Hamas Kidnaps Israeli Soldier, Prompting Israel to Seal off Gaza

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The Islamic fundamentalist Hamas organization has kidnapped a 19-year-old Israeli soldier and is demanding the release of more than 50 prisoners in return for his life.

The soldier, Nachshon Waxman, who has been missing since Sunday, was reportedly taken near Lod, located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

In the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, Hamas released a videocassette showing the soldier’s identification and other documents, his M-16 rifle and other equipment. Hamas says it has a second cassette showing the soldier himself.

In response to the claim, the Israeli army sealed off the Gaza Strip on Tuesday night.

The kidnapping also prompted Israel to suspend its talks with Palestinian negotiators in Cairo. According to Israel Radio, the head of the Israeli delegation, Maj. Gen. Danny Rothschild, was recalled to Jerusalem on Tuesday for consultations.

The station also reported that an emergency Cabinet meeting was to be held Wednesday.

Waxman, a resident of Jerusalem, serves in a crack infantry unit.

Israel’s Channel Two Television reported Tuesday night that a reliable source had seen a second cassette showing the soldier himself, in which he begs the government to release the prisoners and warns that unless they are released he is liable to be tortured and killed.

Hamas was said to be demanding $15 from the government to release the second cassette.

Among the prisoners that Hamas is demanding be released is Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the disabled Gaza cleric who is regarded as the spiritual leader of Hamas. Israeli soldiers arrested Yassin in 1989. He is serving a life sentence for his involvement in the kidnapping and murder of two Israeli soldiers several years ago.

Waxman’s father appeared on Israel Television on Tuesday night in a direct, personal appeal to Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, to track down the kidnappers and save his son, proving that he is capable of delivering real peace.

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