'Israel willing to 'pay the price' for freeing Schalit'

'Al Hayat': Egyptian official expresses optimism that Hamas, J'lem will reach results in prisoner-swap negotiations in Cairo.

By JPOST, COM STAFF,
August 15, 2011 09:27
1 minute read.
A Schalit billboard in Gaza

Gilad Schalit old 311 R. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Hamas and Israel have begun a fresh set of indirect negotiations in Cairo to compelte a prisoner-swap deal in order to secure the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit from the Gaza Strip, Al Hayat reported Monday.

According to the report, representatives from Jerusalem and the Islamist group met last week but failed to produce any results in negotiations, prompting Egyptian mediators to push for renewed talks.

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A senior Egyptian official told Al Hayat Monday "It is not yet possible to talk about any breakthroughs in negotiations," but added optimistically that "there is a real willingness by both sides to move forward on the deal, and Israel is ready to pay the price for freeing Schalit."

The negotiations were reportedly taking place in an Egyptian intelligence complex, with Palestinians and Israelis meeting with Egyptian officials in separate rooms. Egyptian mediators would then carry messages from room to room in order to conduct negotiations.

The Palestinian delegation was being led by Mohammed al-Ja'bari, a senior member of Hamas's military wing Izz ad-Din al-Qassa, and the Israeli side by David Midan, the head of the special envoy in the Schalit affair. Midan is a former senior Mossad official.

Hamas has, as of late, expressed optimism that current negotiations will lead to fruitful results.

According to Al Hayat, a senior official from the Islamist group said last Wednesday that his movement expects “positive developments” in efforts to achieve a prisoner swap with Israel in return for Schalit.

Musa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the Damascus-based Hamas “political bureau,” said that his optimism was based on “internal pressure” on the Israeli government and changes in the makeup of the mediating team.

Hamas, he added, continues to insist on the release of prisoners who are serving lengthy sentences, opposes the deportation of inmates to other countries, and won’t compromise on the number of prisoners it has demanded in return for Schalit.


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