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Israel Masses Troops At Gaza Border


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he has ordered the army to prepare for a major offensive against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, following the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier.

Mr. Olmert told business leaders in Jerusalem Monday there would be no immunity for those holding the soldier. He said he holds the entire Palestinian leadership responsible for the young man's safety.

Israel's Security Cabinet held an emergency session Sunday night and approved a series of reprisal operations against militants in Gaza. But the Cabinet agreed to put them on hold and first try diplomacy to secure the soldier's release.

Israel has already massed troops at the border with Gaza for a possible military response to Sunday's attack, which also killed two Israeli soldiers.

Palestinian officials said Monday they were trying to locate the Israeli soldier. His parents appealed for the safe return of their son.

The militant Popular Resistance Committees and the armed wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for Sunday's raid - the first time Palestinian militants have carried out a border attack since Israeli troops withdrew from the Gaza Strip last year.

Three militants were killed in the fighting. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the raid, and the Hamas-led Palestinian government demanded the militants release the Israeli soldier.

Mr. Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh met late Sunday to discuss the fate of the Israeli soldier.

Information for this report is provided by Reuters, AP and AFP.

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