KIBBUTZ NAHAL OZ – As the Jewish state considers a major ground operation in the Gaza Strip in response to the kidnapping two days ago of an Israeli soldier, fears here are growing that a second Israeli citizen has been abducted by Palestinian terror groups – a claim first reported by WorldNetDaily.

Mahmoud Abed El, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees terrorist organization, claimed last night the Israeli was kidnapped from northern Samaria. He refused to identify his group’s captive, stating more information will be released at a later date.

“We do not give anything away for free,” said Abdel El, who is also known as Abu Abir.

He said the Committees established a special unit to kidnap Israelis and warned more abductions will take place.

Today Abdel El said his group kidnapped the Israeli on Sunday.

At first the Israeli government announced it could not verify the Committee’s claim of abducting a second citizen. A spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces told WND last night the army was investigating.

But concern is now growing here the Committees kidnapped a northern Samaria resident who has been missing since Sunday.

Israeli security forces today imposed strict roadblocks throughout Judea and Samaria and began intensive efforts to locate Eliyahu Ashri, aged 18, from that Samaria town of Itamar. Ashri’s parents filed a missing person’s report which stated the teen has not been heard from since he left his friend’s house Sunday near Jerusalem.

According to the report, there is information Ashri attempted to hitchhike home. Two northern Samaria girls were nearly kidnapped by terror groups last week while attempting to hitchhike. Hitchhiking is a very common practice in Israel.

Israeli security sources told WND there is a “high probability” Ashri has been abducted by the Committees. They said the kidnapping may have been carried out because of possible arguments by the leaders of the Committees and Hamas over freeing Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier the terror groups jointly kidnapped also on Sunday. A second Israeli abduction by the Committees will ensure that even if Shilat is released, the group will still be holding onto another captive it can use to make demands from Israel.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected a demand by terrorists calling for the release of all Palestinian women and children being held in Israeli jails in exchange for information about Shalit.

“This is not a matter of negotiations, this is not a matter of bargaining,” Olmert said in a speech to a gathering of Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.

A pamphlet sent to media outlets and signed by the Committees, Hamas and a new organization calling itself the Army of Islam said it would release information on the fate of Shalit only if Israel freed Palestinian women and minors. According to recent figures, Israel currently has 95 Palestinian women and 313 children in its prisons. Most children either carried out attacks or were caught attempting to smuggle suicide belts out of Palestinian villages.

During Sunday’s raid in which Shalit was captured, eight Palestinian terrorists used a half-mile tunnel they dug to infiltrate Israel’s Kerem Shalom military station on the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border.

Soldiers at the border usually monitor the Gaza Strip and not the Israeli side, where the tunnel exit was located.

Upon exiting the tunnel, the Palestinian terrorists split into three cells, one lobbing more than 20 anti-tank missiles at an army tank; another attacking the tank with grenades, killing the two Israeli soldiers and kidnapping Shalit; and the final cell attacking an army lookout post.

Two terrorists were killed during the raid, while the others escaped back into Gaza with the kidnapped soldier. The army was not aware one of its troops had been kidnapped until several minutes after the operation.

The Kerem Shalom station had been on high alert the past few days after the army received specific warnings of a terror attack there. One of the warning alerts, obtained by WND, outlined the possibility of a Palestinian attack using a tunnel.

A senior military intelligence official told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee yesterday Shalit is being held in the Gaza Strip by senior members of Hamas’ so called “resistance wing.”

The officer told the Knesset Israel does not know exactly where Shalit is, but “we understand that the soldier is alive and lightly wounded.”

Meanwhile, Israel has sealed off the Gaza Strip, including imposing a naval blockade on the areas that run along the Mediterranean Sea, for fear Shalit’s captors will attempt to smuggle him out of the territory.

The IDF deployed thousands of ground troops fortified by tanks stationed at the northern entrance to Gaza. Soldiers have been put on high alert and are being readied for a possible incursion.

Israel’s security cabinet has been holding emergency meetings throughout the day and is debating a large Gaza offensive, although military operations seem to have been put on hold while the international community attempts to broker Shalit’s release.

If the Israeli army enters Gaza, its immediate activity likely will focus on the northern section of the territory and may later expand to include other Gaza hot spots.

Officers stationed at the Gaza border told reporters they were preparing for several scenarios, including the possibility of starting off with a small incursion that would expand gradually.

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