"There is no other way to exert pressure on Israel to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners except by capturing Israeli soldiers and exchanging them," Hamad Rakb, the Hamas representative in the town of Han-Yunis, near Gaza City, said.
He strongly criticized the Palestinian Preventive Security Force, controlled by the pro-presidential Fatah party, for releasing a captured Israeli officer Monday in Jenin, in the West Bank, and called Fatah "servants of the Zionists."
In a violent coup in June, loyalists of Hamas wrested control of Gaza from Fatah, leaving the Palestinian territories divided, and President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah in charge of only the West Bank.
The Israeli soldier, who accidentally strayed into Jenin Monday, was quickly surrounded by a Palestinian mob that torched his car and threatened to kill him. Fatah security forces rescued him and handed him over to the Israeli military.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni as calling the rescue a positive sign.
"This operation proves that the Palestinian government and its forces are growing stronger in the field relative to the terrorist organizations," the paper quoted Livni as saying during a meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
Israel has provided substantial backing for Fatah security forces in the West Bank since the Hamas takeover of Gaza, releasing imprisoned Fatah fighters and withheld taxes.