(photo credit: Associated Press)
A senior advisor to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Saturday that significant progress had been made with Israel to release captured soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit, Army Radio reported.
Ahmed Youssef said that Israel had agreed to release Palestinian prisoners, including a number of "central Hamas activists and other Arab prisoners."
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On Friday, PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar said that the possibility of kidnapping additional IDF soldiers had not been ruled out by Hamas as a tactic for forcing the release of Palestinian security prisoners currently incarcerated in Israel.
Speaking at a Hamas rally in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, Zahar said he demanded that Israel release prisoners in exchange for the release of Shalit.
Israel is a "cancer" in the Middle East, Zahar continued, and added that Hamas would never recognize its existence.
"Israel is a growth on our land," he said. "It has no historical, religious, or cultural justification, and we will never establish relations with this 'cancer.' We will never recognize Israel - this is a final, non-negotiable decision," Zahar declared.
Zahar's comments echoed those made by Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Mashaal a week ago, who reiterated that Hamas would never recognize Israel, but indicated that his organization would consider swapping Shalit in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.