As Kidnapping Ordeal Grips Nation, Palestinians Detain Members of Hamas

Reacting to pressure from Israel and the United States for the return of kidnapped Israeli soldier Cpl. Nach-shon Waxman, Palestinian police have detained at least 200 members of the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement, the group that claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

Some 9,000 Palestinian police reportedly participated in the sweep that began Wednesday night in an effort to resolve the worst crisis to date in Israel’s relations with the Palestinian Authority.

When Waxman’s abduction was announced Tuesday, Israel promptly broke off its negotiations with the Palestinians and sealed off the Gaza Strip.

Dr. Ahmed Tibi, a senior adviser to Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat, is reportedly holding indirect negotiations with Hamas through the International Red Cross and other diplomats, to secure Waxman’s release.

Tibi told reporters as he left a briefing session with Arafat in Gaza on Thursday evening that “recent developments in the past hour or so” indicate that Waxman is still alive and well.

He said he could not reveal with whom he was negotiating, or where Waxman was being held.

Meeting with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Jerusalem on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher backed Rabin’s decision to suspend negotiations with the Palestinians.

“Hamas is fighting a desperate rear-guard action” to torpedo the Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative, Christopher said.

Rabin reportedly told Christopher that Arafat is facing a fundamental choice between continuing the peace process or allowing Hamas, Arafat’s leading rival in Palestinian affairs, to thwart the uneasy peace.

Meanwhile, the Waxman family attended a prayer meeting for the safety of their son that was held at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Thursday evening. An estimated 30,000 people attended the prayer meeting in Jerusalem, which was held simultaneously with other gatherings held in towns and villages throughout the country.

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