Hamas on Sunday accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of “misleading”
Israelis by creating the false impression that there was some kind of progress
in negotiations for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.
Hamas won’t deliver letters to or from Gilad Schalit
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In an early
morning interview with Army Radio, Netanyahu confirmed that contacts started
anew a number of weeks ago to gain the young man’s release.
been a renewal of contact with the German negotiator,” he said, adding that his
office is dealing with the Schalit dossier on a continuous basis in a variety of
The central channel, he said, is “negotiation [through the German
mediator] that started a number of weeks ago.” Netanyahu would not offer any
details of the talks.
Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official in Lebanon,
told Al-Jazeera that Netanyahu’s talk about progress was aimed at “easing
domestic pressure on his government.”
His words came after Channel 2
reported on Saturday that German mediator Gerhard Konrad traveled to Gaza three
weeks ago to speak with Hamas about a deal for Schalit.
that a German mediator had visited the Gaza Strip recently in another bid to
achieve a breakthrough, but to no avail.
“Hamas informed the German
mediator that it won’t make any concessions on its demands and there would be no
return to phase zero of the talks,” Hamdan said.
He added that the
mediator, whom he did not name, did not bring anything new and had only a few
meetings during his stay in the Gaza Strip.
Holding Netanyahu responsible
for the lack of progress in efforts to reach a prisoner-exchange agreement, the
Hamas official said: “Hamas’s position is very clear. The negotiations and
discussions must be resumed from the point where they stopped. We won’t return
to stage zero.”
Sources close to Hamas in the Gaza Strip said that the
main differences between the two sides remain over whether Israel should release
Israeli Arab prisoners and those who carried out big terrorist
The sources said that Hamas and Israel would still need months
to bridge the gap between them.
Schalit’s father, Noam, told The
that as far as he knew, efforts to release his son have been
stuck since last January with no progress in sight.
He stood next to a
protest tent outside Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem, where he and
his family have been sitting since July 8, determined not to return to their
Mitzpe Hila home in the Upper Galilee until Gilad is with them.
Sunday, volunteers helped outfit the tent for winter by installing a cement
floor inside and placing a wooden one in an area outside the main tent that
serves as a kitchen.
On top of the tent hung a sign with the number of
days Schalit has been a captive in Gaza, 1,575. He was kidnapped on June 25,
2006, while on patrol along the Gaza border.
Earlier on Sunday, the
Schalit family staged a protest at Kibbutz Deganya Alef, where the cabinet
gathered for a special session marking 100 years since the establishment of the
Gilad’s grandfather Tzvi Schalit told the media there
that “a prime minister who doesn’t bring about Gilad’s release – is killing
“I don’t know why the prime minister doesn’t make the phone call
that would bring Gilad home,” Tzvi told Israel Radio. “Hamas has a very limited
demand and it has not changed over the years. The list [of security prisoners
that Hamas wants in exchange for Gilad] is known.”
Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) said before the cabinet meeting that
Israel’s position on a proposed swap for Schalit has not changed, and that he
hoped that Konrad’s return to the region indicated that Hamas was showing
“As we all know, the prime minister already accepted the
position of the German negotiator, but set down some red lines,” Erdan
“The deal was not carried out because of Hamas’s refusal and its
In June it was reported that Hamas failed to reply to an
Israeli offer to release hundreds of terrorists – including more than 100
responsible for murdering more than 600 Israelis – in exchange for Schalit, on
condition they do not return to the West Bank, but go either to the Gaza Strip
The offer included a willingness to release 450 Palestinian
prisoners in negotiations with Hamas – of whom over 100 had “blood on their
hands” – and another 550 prisoners unilaterally as a gesture to the Palestinian
However, the government made clear it would not release
“mega-terrorists” – those responsible for some of the worst
Among these mega-terrorists are those responsible for the
attacks at Jerusalem’s Sbarro restaurant in 2001, where 15 people were killed;
the Moment Cafe, where 11 were killed in Jerusalem in 2002; Cafe Hillel, where
seven were killed in the capital in 2003; the attack in a game club in Rishon
Lezion, where 16 were killed in 2002; the Dolphinarium attack in Tel Aviv, where
21 were killed in 2001; and the Park Hotel in Netanya, where 30 people were
killed on Seder night in 2002.
Last December, media speculation was high
that a deal for Gilad was close to completion, but the negotiations broke down