'German diplomat continues efforts to free Schalit'

Report: Konrad visits Hamas members in prison in attempt to negotiate soldier's release; Hamas official says Israel refusing to free Bargouti.

October 21, 2010 11:03
1 minute read.
IN THIS 2007 file photo, Hamas operatives ride on

Schalit 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

Gerhard Konrad, the German diplomat negotiating captive soldier Gilad Schalit's release, reportedly met with Hamas official Sheikh Hassan Yousouf in an Israeli prison, London-based newspaper Al-Hayat reported on Thursday.

Yousouf is a high-ranking official, and this report comes shortly after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that the German negotiator visiting Israeli and Hamas leaders in an attempt to restart talks.

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A Hamas official also told Al-Hayat that Israel refused to release 15 senior Palestinian officials, including Ahmed Sadaat and Marwan Barghouti, after their names had already been approved. Hamas military chief Ahmed Al-Jabri reportedly will not agree to a prisoner exchange without those 15 prisoners.

In an interview Sunday morning with Army Radio, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu confirmed that contacts started anew a number of weeks ago to gain Schalit's release.

"There has been a renewal of contact with the German negotiator,” Netanyahu said, adding that his office is dealing with the Schalit dossier on a continuous basis in a variety of ways.

The central channel, he said, is “negotiation [through the German mediator] that started a number of weeks ago.”

However, Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar told Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram that Netanyahu's announcement was an attempt to divert attention from Israel's harsh treatment of Palestinian prisoners.

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