GAZA (Reuters) – Islamic leaders in the Gaza Strip called on Friday for militants to kidnap Israelis and use them as bargaining chips to secure the freedom of thousands of Palestinians prisoners held in Israeli jails.
Human rights groups say up to 2,000 prisoners have joined an open-ended hunger strike to protest against jail conditions and thousands of Palestinians staged a rally in the Gaza Strip to support their cause.
“We should work hard to get (Israeli) prisoners in our hands in order to secure the freedom of our prisoners,” Khaled Al-Batsh, a senior member of the Islamic Jihad, told the crowd.
“I say to all armed factions, the way to free the prisoners is through swaps … An arrest for an arrest, and freedom for freedom. This is the way,” he said.
Israel last year freed some 1,000 Palestinians in return for the release of Gilad Shalit, a soldier seized in 2006 and held by the Islamist group Hamas in secret captivity for five years.
Human Rights groups say at least 4,700 Palestinians remain in Israeli jails, many of them convicted for violent crimes. Palestinian leaders say they should be treated as prisoners of war, something Israel rejects.
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