on my '97 parts truck, which is the same set up as your 96, to remove the front axles you have to remove the spindles. The drivers side just slides out of the front differential and out the hole left by the removed spindle. On the passenger side, the shaft is held in the differential by a c clip, so you have to split the axle at the expansion boot, then you can take the outer half out the hole left by the removed spindle.
If you have to get the other half of the passenger side out of the differential, then I can't help because that one eludes me. Pretty much have to remove the whole arm that the front diff is bolted to. Supposed to be possible with magic to get the diff off the arm without removing the arm first, but have tried and haven't been able to do that.. Yet.
I wanted to try swapping parts from the 97 parts truck to the 96 one I have on the road, but am currently stumped by a token lack of tool. My 96 has four wheel ABS, the front ABS sensor is held on by some small 12 point bolt and none of the stores near me have such a socket. Have to take off the sensor to be able to get the spindle off. If you don't have the four wheel ABS, then the hole left by not having the front ABS sensor is a great place to drive a tool against the back of the spindle to start walking it loose