The threats from Hamas and Islamic Jihad came as thousands of Palestinians, marking Palestinian Prisoners Day, took to the streets of the West Bank and Gaza on Saturday to demand the release of prisoners held by Israel.

"There is no policy except the policy of kidnapping soldiers so they can be exchanged with our prisoners," said Abd Allah Shami, the Islamic Jihad leader in Gaza. "This tactic will be used by all the Palestinian factions."

About 7000 Palestinian prisoners are being held in Israeli jails on various charges, including "attacks" against Israel. Most were rounded up in army raids during more than three years of fighting.

In a Gaza City march, parents carried pictures of their imprisoned sons and daughters. Actors dressed as Israeli soldiers and Palestinian prisoners played out scenes on the back of a truck draped with barbed wire, with "soldiers" beating shackled and blindfolded "prisoners".

International issue

Aljazeera has received a statement from the Palestinian Prisoners Society, stating: "The disaster in the Israeli prisons is not less dangerous than that of the apartheid wall."

Youths enact Israeli treatment
of Palestinian detainees

The statement also called for making the Palestinian detainees' issue an international one.

In the West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron), protesters burned US and Israeli flags and chanted the slogan "No peace without the release of prisoners."

In August, Israel freed several hundred Palestinian prisoners to try to improve the atmosphere. The gesture fell flat among Palestinians, who had hoped for a mass release, and said most of those freed had already been up for release. Several dozen of the freed prisoners belonged to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Israel is reportedly not obligated to release Palestinian prisoners under the faltering US-backed "road map" to peace that calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state by next year.