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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 September 2005, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Hamas releases video of hostage
Photo released by Hamas claiming to show kidnapped Israeli businessman Sasson Nuriel
Hamas said it wanted to use Sasson Nuriel in a prisoner swap
Palestinian militant group Hamas has released a video of a bound and blindfolded Israeli businessman it says it kidnapped and later killed.

The body of 51-year-old Sasson Nuriel, who vanished last week, was found near Ramallah in the West Bank on Monday.

Hamas said it had planned to trade him for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, but decided to kill him after Israel began raids in the West Bank.

Israel's Internal Minister Gideon Ezra called the killing "cowardly".

"This was not an abduction [for ransom] or a military operation. They came across a Jew whose only fault was being a Jew," he said on Army Radio.

The shaky and grainy video, which lasts a few seconds, shows a blindfolded Mr Nuriel sitting in front of a green Hamas banner with a driving licence on his lap to prove his identity.

The father-of-three is seen speaking, apparently pleading for the release of Palestinian prisoners in Arabic, but the sound is muffled.

Israeli operation

Palestinian armed groups have kidnapped Israelis before but have very rarely released pictures of their hostages, says the BBC's James Reynolds in Jerusalem.

This video is strikingly similar to the kind of images released by armed groups in Iraq, our correspondent adds.

Sasson Nuriel
Father-of-three Sasson Nuriel worked in a sweets factory

Hamas said in a statement on Wednesday that it "was preparing to swap the Zionist prisoner for prisoners of the Palestinian people.

"But the campaign of random arrests by the occupation forces in West Bank cities forces our unit to kill him."

The body of Mr Nuriel, who worked in a sweets factory in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, was found in the village of Beitunya, near Ramallah, five days after he went missing.

A joint operation by Israeli security forces and the police, led to the arrest of several suspected Hamas militants - one of whom led them to the body, said police.

Trading blows

Meanwhile, shrapnel found in the bodies of people killed in last week's blast in northern Gaza came from Hamas' homemade rockets, the Palestinian Authority has said.

Its forensic report said the shrapnel resembled that used by the Palestinian militant group in its Qassam rockets.

Smoke rises at scene of blast in Jabaliya refugee camp
Findings discredit Hamas' claim that Israel caused the Jabaliya blast

Hamas blamed Israel for the Jabaliya blast that killed at least 15 people, a charge Israel denies. The incident has led to a dramatic upsurge in violence.

The forensic report was published by the interior ministry's explosive unit.

The Palestinian Authority said Hamas militants mishandled the home-made weapons during a big rally in the Jabaliya refugee camp on Friday.

Hamas had earlier said Israeli planes had fired missiles into the crowd.

Following the blast, the group fired dozens of rockets into southern Israel, injuring several people.

Israel retaliated by firing missiles at a number of targets in Gaza during air raids and also by launching a massive series of arrests.

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