http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGAVSEG05UD.html Soldiers Search Gaza City for Remains of Comrades After Militants Display Body Parts By Ibrahim Barzak Associated Press Writer Published: May 12, 2004 GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Israeli soldiers searched for the remains of six soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Gaza City, but Palestinian militants proudly displayed some of the body parts and said they would only turn them over in negotiations. Israel refused and threatened swift retribution for the soldiers' deaths Tuesday, the most in a single army operation since November 2002. At a special session of their Security Cabinet late Tuesday, Israeli leaders said their forces would stay in Gaza City until the remains were recovered, an unusual order. Though raids in Gaza are common, soldiers rarely stay more than a few hours because of fears they could come under renewed attack. The bomb exploded under an Israeli armored personnel carrier as troops were pulling out after a small, routine Israeli military operation to destroy Palestinian weapons workshops in Gaza City's crowded Zeitoun neighborhood. That touched off a fierce battle that pitted hundreds of gunmen against Israeli troops firing from tanks, helicopters and rooftops. Eight Palestinians were killed and more than 120 wounded. The armored personnel carrier was carrying at least 220 pounds of explosives from the operation and the roadside bomb shattered it. Body parts of the six soldiers were spread over a large area. Palestinian militants were seen rejoicing, picking up remains and displaying them for TV cameras. In a grisly video broadcast on Al-Jazeera, an Arabic-language satellite TV channel, Islamic Jihad militants showed what they said was the head of an Israeli soldier. Hamas militants displayed pieces of metal and bits of flesh, laying them out on the ground. A Hamas gunman on a motorcycle held up a bloody burlap bag with body parts. Outraged Israeli leaders demanded that the remains be returned to Israel and threatened reprisals. They appealed to the International Committee of the Red Cross for help, and the humanitarian organization started making contacts, according to Red Cross officials. During the night, Israeli soldiers set up spotlights in the area of the explosion, cordoning off a radius of about 300 yards and searching balconies, streets and rooftops for body parts, residents said. About 75 Israeli army vehicles were in the neighborhood. Soldiers fired flares to help illuminate the scene. Hamas claimed responsibility for the roadside bomb, but two other militant groups, the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades - linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement - and Islamic Jihad, said in a statement they also had some of the remains. They offered to negotiate with Israel. However, Israel refused. "We are not conducting any negotiations," said Israeli military commander Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon. "We will show no forgiveness toward those who are responsible for (what happened to) the bodies," he said. Arafat called his security council into session in the West Bank city of Ramallah and issued a statement saying the Palestinian Authority is in touch with "our brothers in Gaza" to solve the problem of the body parts "according to religious and humanitarian traditions." Thousands of mourners marched in a Gaza funeral procession for six of the Palestinians who were killed, and militants were defiant. "Our message to the cowardly Zionist army, which was defeated by the freedom fighters in Zeitoun, is to leave our land now, before it's too late, because we in Al Aqsa, Hamas and Islamic Jihad will not spare any one of you," a masked gunman told the crowd. The deaths of the six soldiers renewed debate in Israel over a proposed withdrawal from Gaza. Sharon is pushing for a withdrawal, saying he wants to reduce friction and create defensible borders, but the plan was rejected by his Likud Party in a nonbinding referendum last week. In another development Tuesday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said President Bush has written to the Palestinian Authority to affirm his commitment to the "road map" peace plan and the creation of a Palestinian state. Bush wrote that disputed issues must be resolved by the parties, Shaath said, adding that he would meet with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell at an economic conference in Jordan over the weekend. The Bush letter appeared aimed at easing tensions with the Arab world over assurances the president gave to Sharon last month that appeared to back away from the road map, including a declaration that Israel would not have to absorb Palestinian refugees or withdraw from all of the West Bank.