Officials said the Israeli unmanned platforms appeared to have focused
on Gaza City. They said Hamas was concerned that the UAVs were trying to
determine where Sgt. Gilad Shalit, abducted in 2006, was being held.
"There is more than one UAV hovering over a small area of Gaza City," a
Hamas security source said.
The Israel Air Force has employed a range of UAV platforms in operations
in the Gaza Strip. They were identified as the Hermes-450 of Elbit Systems,
the Searcher-3 of Israel Aerospace Industries and the Aerostar by
Aeronautics Defense Systems.
Officials said the Israeli intelligence community has been searching for
Shalit's whereabouts for more than five years. They said Israel sent
numerous agents, including those disguised as journalists, relief workers
and Western diplomatic staffers, to the Gaza Strip.
During the prisoner negotiations, Israel Security Agency director Yoram
Cohen sought to meet Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari. Hamas spokesman Abu
Obeida said Cohen submitted two requests to meet Jabari in Cairo, but the
military commander, long targeted by Israel, refused.
Hamas, in an assertion confirmed by Western diplomats, said the Israel
Air Force was also using combat UAVs over the Gaza Strip. They said these
platforms were armed with light air-to-ground rockets that could strike both
moving and stationary targets.
Officials said Hamas would not release Shalit until Israel transfers
Palestinians to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They said the Islamist regime
feared an Israeli undercover operation to grab Shalit once he leaves his
secret lair, believed to be somewhere in southern Gaza.
"Those holding the prisoner [Shalit] have been warned to be extremely
careful because there could be a surprise [by Israel]," the security source