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(photo credit: Channel 10 [file])
Hamas is demanding the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip said Tuesday.
Osama al-Mazini, who has been entrusted by Hamas to speak about the case of Schalit, said no progress has been achieved with regards to conducting a prisoner exchange between his movement and Israel.
Al-Mazini said that reports about a deal between Israel, on one hand, and Hizbullah and Hamas on the other hand, were completely untrue.
"Hamas is not part of the reported prisoner exchange between Israel and Hizbullah," he said. "The contacts [over the release of Schalit] have been suspended ever since Israel rejected our demands."
Mazini said Hamas had presented a list of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners that it was demanding in return for the release of Schalit. He added that Hamas was demanding their release in two stages: first 450 and then 550.
"When we presented to the Egyptians the first list of 450 prisoners, Israel agreed to free only 71," he said. "Hamas can't accept the Israeli position. We are talking about 71 out of 1,000 prisoners and this means that the gap remains very wide."
Mazini also denied reports about plans to hold intensive talks in Cairo between his movement and Israel about a prisoner exchange.
"How can we hold such talks when we have agreed only on five percent of the deal?" he asked. "Intensive talks are held only after the two sides have reached an agreement on most of the details."
He said Hamas would not soften its position regarding the case of Schalit. "No one can pressure or extort Hamas," he declared. "Israel tried to extort us with the case of the truce, but we rejected the attempt to link the truce to the soldier's release."
In a related development, Hamas and Palestinian Authority officials expressed disappointment over reports that Palestinian prisoners would not be included in the reported deal between Israel and Hizbullah.
"Hizbullah has once again betrayed the Palestinians," a top PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post. "We were hoping that [Hizbullah Secretary-General] Hassan Nasrallah would demand the release of at least several hundred Palestinian prisoners. But we were surprised to hear that he's only going to get a small number of Lebanese prisoners."
A Hamas representative in Gaza City said Hizbullah had not coordinated its moves with his movement regarding the possibility of conducting a prisoner exchange with Israel.
He added that Hamas and other Palestinian factions had sent to Hizbullah many lists with the names of Palestinian prisoners with the hope that they would be included in a deal.
"Of course we are disappointed," the Hamas official told the Post. "Hizbullah proved it does not care about the Palestinians. We believe Hizbullah could have secured the release of at least 200-300 Palestinians."