NIZMIT HILL, Israel (Reuters) -
Israel massed tanks and troops near Gaza on Tuesday for a threatened offensive against Palestinian militants and said it would target Hamas leaders if an abducted soldier was not freed.
In northern Gaza, Palestinians blocked roads with dirt and barbed wire. Militants wielding automatic rifles and anti-tank rockets rigged explosive devices along a road as tensions hit their highest since Israel quit Gaza nearly a year ago.
The United States urged Israel to give diplomatic negotiations a chance to win the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was seized on Sunday by militants who also killed two soldiers in a raid on an army border post.
Israel's military build-up came as Palestinian factions put aside months of internal acrimony and agreed on a manifesto at the heart of a power struggle between the moderate President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.
The proposal calls for a Palestinian state alongside Israel. But the governing Hamas movement rejected suggestions the deal could imply recognition of Israel, which it is sworn to destroy.
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It is about time that Israel acted with force and purpose. They have been forced to withstand shelling from the Gaza Strip since they left. They had hoped that with that goodwill gesture, violence would subside and a plan for peace could be achieved. With the terrorist group Hamas winning the lastest elections tensions have been on a sharp increase. Hamas must be dealt with, they in fact have in there charter the destruction of Israel, this cannot be allowed. These scum would think nothing of destroying that country and killing as many of us as they could. They ask for no quarter and they should be given none.