Hamas MPs 298.88.
(photo credit: Ahmad Gharabli)
Israel will eventually surrender to the demands of the captors of IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit and release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, a senior Hamas official said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority said Israel was responsible for the delay in reaching a prisoner exchange with the Palestinians.
"We are aware of the fact that the negotiations with the occupation government [over the release of the prisoners] are difficult and facing many obstacles, but we also know that Israel has no choice but to succumb to our demands," said Yehya Musa, deputy head of Hamas's Change and Reform parliamentary list. "Israel knows very well that this is the only way to secure the release of its soldiers."
Musa said the "perseverance" of the captors and the PA government would eventually lead to the desired results.
"In the beginning, Israel rejected the principle of exchanging prisoners, but gradually the Israelis backtracked," he said. "This is a sign that Israel will finally accept all our demands."
PA Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti claimed that Israel's refusal to accept all the demands of the captors was "a sign of the weakness of the Israeli government."
The Israeli government, he added, has proven once again that it was unable to deal with recurring initiatives made by the Palestinians.
"Israel is therefore fully responsible for the delay in achieving a prisoner exchange," he said. "The Israeli government, through its procrastination, is responsible for the fact that Gilad Schalit is still being held captive."
Barghouti called on the international community to exert pressure on Israel to accept the demands of the captors. He also rejected Israel's position that it would not release prisoners with Jewish blood on their hands.
"By using the term 'blood on the their hands,' Israel is proving its bad intentions," he said. "The Israeli army has a lot of Palestinian blood on its hands."
The head of the Egyptian security delegation in the Gaza Strip, Gen. Burhan Hammad, on Wednesday instructed all Palestinian factions to refrain from making public statements regarding the case of Schalit so as not to spoil attempts to achieve a prisoner exchange deal with Israel.
Spokesmen for the various factions, including the groups that took responsibility for the kidnapping of Schalit, said they would comply.
In an unrelated development, Hamas launched a scathing attack on the US for its decision to spend $60 million to bolster security forces loyal to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
The Bush administration on Tuesday gave a green light to Congress to spend the money to help Abbas's Presidential Guard and for other security expenses.
"This decision shows Washington's bad intentions," said a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip. "The US was never in favor of the Palestinians. The latest decision is aimed at creating schism among the Palestinians in the aftermath of the Mecca agreement. The suspicious money is aimed at serving Israel's security interests in the region and we call on President Abbas to clarify his position regarding this issue."
Musa, the Hamas legislator, said the US aid was "filthy" and warned that Washington was trying to drive a wedge between the Palestinians. He said any foreign aid to the Palestinians should be channeled only through the PA Finance Ministry.