Hamas denies progress on Shalit deal

Officials: Delay due to demand for concurrent release of security prisoners.

By JPOST STAFF, AP
October 28, 2006 10:50
2 minute read.
Hamas denies progress on Shalit deal

Gilad Shalit 298 88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Hamas officials on Sunday denied reports release over the weekend that a deal was imminent for the release of kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit. According to the officials, the prisoner exchange deal was delayed due to the kidnappers' demand that Palestinian security prisoners be released concurrently with Shalit. On Saturday afternoon, Hamas spokesman Osama al-Muzaini said that Israel had agreed on the number of prisoners it would exchange for Shalit, but not which prisoners would be released. Hamas denied earlier claims by the Popular Resistance Committees that a prisoner swap was imminent, but confirmed that significant progress in negotiating Shalit's release had been made. "Real progress has been made over the issue of Shalit, but that progress did not get to the point where we can say a swap was imminent," al-Muzaini said. Meanwhile, Egypt denied a report, published in the Arab press on Friday, that Hamas' Damascus-based political chief, Khaled Mashaal, would travel to Cairo in connection with the Shalit negotiations. Mashaal's deputy in Syria, Moussa Abu Marzouk, had also denied the report. Earlier on Saturday, the PRC, one of the three groups responsible for Shalit's kidnapping, announced that significant progress had been made on a prisoner swap deal, and that a deal for Shalit could be agreed upon within "days." The PRC said that they had accepted an Egyptian proposal detailing a prisoner swap, and that they were currently only waiting for Israeli approval. "Progress has been made, and it is possible that we will know the extent of that progress in just a few more days," said Abu Mujahed, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees. Mujahed also said his faction had agreed to an Egyptian-brokered deal to release Shalit in return for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. "There is an Egyptian proposal that would include the release of our Palestinian prisoners and we agreed on this proposal," he said. "We expect a solution to our prisoners case in the near future." Egypt has been attempting to negotiate his release and has blamed Hamas for scuttling the deal. Cabinet Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, in a visit to Cairo earlier this month, said his government has accepted the Egyptian proposal. Israeli officials also said they were unaware of any progress in efforts to win Shalit's release. Saeb Erekat, an aide to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of the rival Fatah party, played down the reports of an imminent deal. "Efforts are ongoing, but I don't think we are closer today than we were yesterday to solving this problem," Erekat said. In Gaza, Palestinian police in blue-and-white camouflage uniforms deployed around the parliament building on Saturday, in an attempt to calm fears of bloody fighting between Hamas and Fatah.

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