The Israeli demand to expel many of the released Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank may delay the Schalit deal, Izzat al-Rashek, a senior Hamas official in Syria, said in an interview reported by Israel Radio on Monday.
Rashek's comments came as the seven-minister inner cabinet was scheduled to reconvene Monday night at 8:00 pm to take up the debate over a proposed prisoner swap that would secure the release of captured IDF solider Gilad Schalit.
In an interview from Damascus, Rashek reportedly explained that while Hamas and Israel had agreed to expel a small group of prisoners to the Gaza Strip, the terror group was opposed to "drowning" the deal with exiled prisoners and turning it into an "expulsion agreement."
Hamas was awaiting Israel's answer, Rashek said, and the group's leadership would convene immediately upon receiving the response via the German mediator.
"If it [the Israeli response] is sensible and meets Hamas's demands, Schalit will see daylight immediately," the Hamas official claimed.
However, Rashek warned that if Israel toughens its position or tries to extort Hamas at the last minute, then "those who have held Schalit for the past three-and-a-half years can go on holding him for a very long time."
The Hamas official expressed hope that Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman's visit to Israel would advance the prisoner swap deal and that the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would be brave enough to make an "important decision."