June 30, 2005

Palestinian forces search for Israelis – source

NABLUS, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian security forceswere searching for Israelis in the West Bank city of Nablus onThursday after a militant faction first said it had killed twosoldiers then said they were being held alive.

A police officer in the West Bank city said it was unclearwhether there had been a kidnapping at all.

"No one knows," he said.

Israel's army did not comment.

A Palestinian security source said an Israeli vehicle hadbeen found abandoned in the Balata refugee camp of the militantstronghold. It showed no signs of damage.

Abu Thaer, a spokesman for the Ayman Jouda units of al-AqsaMartyrs Brigades, told a news conference in the Gaza Strip thattwo soldiers had been captured when they entered Nablusundercover as part of a raiding force.

Abu Thaer said that the two were being held alive in Nablusand had not been killed -- as he himself had said earlier.

He presented no evidence, but said this would follow.

Some other units of the Al-Aqsa Brigades said they knewnothing of such an incident in Nablus. The Brigades are part ofPresident Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, though divided insplinter groups with differing loyalties.

Abu Thaer said the soldiers would be killed if there wasany attack on its forces in Nablus.

He said the group was demanding the release of allPalestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, the return ofbodies of dead Palestinian militants and the lifting of allcheckpoints in the West Bank in return for the soldiers.