schalit banners 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Hamas refused on Tuesday to confirm reports about a possible breakthrough in
negotiations to achieve a prisoner exchange deal with Israel that would lead to
the release of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.
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Al-Hayat newspaper quoted a Hamas official as saying that German mediator
Gerhard Konrad, who visited the Gaza Strip a few weeks ago, raised a number of
“new ideas to advance the matter.”
The official, who was not identified
by name, told the paper that Hamas is waiting for Israel’s response to the new
He added that Hamas has not changed its demand for the release of
all prisoners whose names appeared on a list that was delivered to Israel last
year. The list consists of some 1,000 prisoners.
“Signing an agreement
will be possible only when Israel displays serious intentions and sincerity,”
the Hamas official said.
Hamas has no intention to hold Schalit forever,
but will agree to release him only as part of an honorable prisoner exchange
deal, the official said.
In response, Hamas announced that there was
nothing new regarding efforts to secure a prisoner swap with Israel.
Hamas representative in the Gaza Strip confirmed that the German mediator had
met with leaders of the Islamist movement.
However, the official said it
was premature to talk about a breakthrough. “The soldier will be released only
when Israel accepts our demand for the release of all the prisoners whose names
appeared on the list,” he explained.
In June, Israel made clear to Hamas
that it would not release terrorists with “blood on their hands” back to the
West Bank, but rather deport them either to Gaza or abroad, and would not
release from prison a number of mega-terrorists responsible for some of the
worst terrorist atrocities the country has ever known.
Mossad head Meir
Dagan said in private meetings before leaving office earlier this month that not
being able to either release or get information about Schalit was one of his
biggest regrets as head of the intelligence agency.
He also said he
opposed the release of 450 terrorists to the West Bank because it would create
an “insufferable” situation.
According to Dagan, the 400 terrorists who
were released in 2004 to gain the return of businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum and
the bodies of three IDF soldiers are believed to have been directly or
indirectly involved in killing 231 Israelis.
In addition, he said, the
release of the prisoners to the West Bank would strengthen Hamas and potentially
lead to the downfall of the Palestinian Authority.
Also, he said, the
prisoners Hamas was seeking were arrested by IDF soldiers, some of whom were
killed during operations to arrest them. There was a moral problem in releasing
terrorists whom others died trying to apprehend, Dagan said.