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Hamas rejects latest offer for Shalit

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on the release of abducted Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in his Jerusalem office on July 1, 2010. Netanyahu presented his government's stance for Shalit's release and said it would not be 'at any price.' Shalit was abducted in a cross border raid by Hamas militants and has been held inside the Gaza Strip for four years. UPI/Jim Hollander/Pool
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on the release of abducted Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in his Jerusalem office on July 1, 2010. Netanyahu presented his government's stance for Shalit's release and said it would not be 'at any price.' Shalit was abducted in a cross border raid by Hamas militants and has been held inside the Gaza Strip for four years. UPI/Jim Hollander/Pool | License Photo

JERUSALEM, July 2 (UPI) -- Hamas rejected an Israeli offer Friday to release 1,000 prisoners for Gilad Shalit, saying top leaders must be included in the exchange.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Hamas is demanding freedom for "mass murderers," Voice of America reported. He said he does not want to set off a new wave of terrorist attacks.

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"The state of Israel is prepared to pay a heavy price to win the release of Gilad Shalit, but that does not mean, any price," the prime minister said.

Shalit was a 19-year-old Army corporal when he was captured in June 2006 in a cross-border raid into southern Israel. He has since been promoted to sergeant.

Ayman Taha, a Hamas spokesman, said Netanyahu, facing growing pressure from within Israel to win Shalit's release, increased the number of prisoners in an effort to shift the blame for the soldier's continued captivity to Hamas. Taha said Hamas will not agree until all those it has listed are freed and that Israeli security forces can deal with any threat they might pose.

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