MOSCOW – Foreign ministers from the Group of Eight major industrialized nations on Thursday called on Israel and the Palestinians to do everything possible to calm the ongoing crisis, as Israeli forces pressed their military campaign in Gaza to win the release of an Israeli soldier held by Hamas gunmen.
"We confirmed our support for the Quartet ... and called on the parties to take all the necessary steps to calm the situation," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, referring to the group of Middle East peace mediators — Russia, the United States, the United Nations, and the European Union.
"With restraint, perhaps we can get back to a place where there can be hope for a peaceful resolution," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said during a news conference attended by the eight top diplomats along with representatives of the European Union and other groups.
Lavrov also said the world's most industrialized nations demanded that the militant Palestinian group Hamas immediately release the captive Israeli soldier.
"We are united in the demand to free him as quickly as possible," Lavrov said.
Rice said "reasonable Palestinians are also involved in efforts" to win the soldier's release.
Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit was captured during a raid on a military outpost near the Gaza border early Sunday, sparking the latest crisis between Israel and the Palestinians. Israeli authorities, meanwhile, have detained seven Cabinet ministers and 20 lawmakers from Hamas in a clear attempt to use them as bargaining chips to win the release of the soldier.
Israeli troops rounded up dozens of ministers and lawmakers from the Palestinians' ruling Hamas party Thursday while forging ahead with a military campaign in Gaza meant to win the release of an Israeli soldier held by Hamas gunmen. On Wednesday, Israeli warplanes buzzed the summer residence of President Bashar Assad of Syria, where Hamas' top political leader Khaled Mashaal lives.
The operations are meant to step up the pressure on Palestinian militants holding the Israeli soldier after Israel refused to negotiate a swap of the soldier for Palestinian prisoners, who are estimated to number about 8,000.