schalit in uniform 248.88.
(photo credit: Courtesy of Gilad Schalit's family)
The Egyptian authorities have released a top Hamas operative wanted by the Palestinian Authority and Israel for his involvement in terror attacks over the past few years, PA officials told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
The officials expressed outrage over the release of Nahro Massoud - one of the commanders of Hamas's armed wing, Izzadin Kassam - who fled to Egypt more than a year ago. At the request of the PA, Massoud and several other Hamas fugitives were arrested by the Egyptian security forces and held without trial.
Massoud's name had appeared on a Hamas list of prisoners whose release the group was demanding in exchange for kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit.
But it was not clear Sunday whether the Egyptian decision to release the Hamas fugitive was linked to secret talks on reaching a prisoner exchange deal with Israel. The Egyptians have been acting as mediators between Hamas and Israel in a bid to secure the release of Schalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas and other Palestinian groups in the summer of 2006.
According to the PA officials, the release of Massoud is yet another sign of the recent rapprochement between Hamas and Egypt.
"The Egyptians have clearly changed their policy toward Hamas," they said.
Three weeks ago, the Egyptian authorities permitted Hamas supporters and figures stranded on the Egyptian side of the border to return to the Gaza Strip. The move was seen by PA officials in Ramallah as part of a deal between the Hamas leadership and Cairo to improve their relations.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has since spoken twice on the phone with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Gen. Omar Suleiman about the situation in the Gaza Strip and the ongoing Hamas-Fatah crisis.
Enraged by Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip last June, the Egyptians cut their ties with Hamas and moved their diplomats and security delegation from Gaza City to Ramallah.
A Hamas official confirmed that Massoud had been released after spending 11 months in an Egyptian prison.
"He was released over the weekend, and since then, he has been reunited with his family in Syria," the official said. "All we can say at this stage is that he had been tortured while in prison."
The PA has accused Massoud of being behind the assassination of Col. Muhammad al-Musat, commander of the PA's Military Intelligence Force in the northern Gaza Strip. PA security officials said Massoud and a number of Hamas militiamen fled to Egypt through underground tunnels for fear of being arrested by the PA. They added that contrary to Hamas's claims, Massoud was now in the Gaza Strip, not Syria.
"Unfortunately the Egyptians turned down our request to extradite Massoud and his gang," said one official. "Now they are releasing him unconditionally and without even informing us. This man should be brought to trial for his role in the assassination of Col. Musat and other crimes."
Massoud is also wanted by Israel for his role in a series of terror attacks. Two of his brothers, Khaled and Tito, who were also members of Hamas, have been killed by the IDF in the past four years.