palestinian female prisoner 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Hours after Israel released 19 female Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a video proving captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit was alive, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on Friday night threatened to capture more Israeli soldiers in order to win the release of all Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons.
In a speech in Damascus, Syria, Mashaal congratulated the Palestinian people on the release of the prisoners and promised to work for the release of thousands of Palestinians held by Israel.
Those who were able to capture Schalit and hold him safely for more than three years are capable of capturing "Schalit and Schalit and Schalit until there was not even one prisoner in the enemy's jails," Mashaal said.
The Damascus-based leader's comments were followed by remarks from Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri, who on Friday night said that the prisoner release proved that Israel had no choice but to give in to the group's demands.
"The Zionist enemy has no choice but to accept Hamas's demands," Masri reportedly said.
According to Channel 10, Masri told the Hamas television network that "the fact that 20 female prisoners were released today helps Hamas, and the passing time does not help the Zionist enemy, but rather strengthens our position."
The Hamas spokesman said that even though it could take a long time, the negotiations with Israel would lead to a prisoner exchange deal.
"The negotiations over the deal are being held slowly and will continue for a long time, but we are sure they will be successful," he was quoted as saying.
On Friday, Israel almost completed its share of the deal, releasing 19 prisoners, 18 to the West Bank and one to Gaza. The 20th prisoner will be released Sunday, after it turned out that a prisoner released Wednesday was about to complete her sentence and would therefore be released regardless of the deal.
Earlier Friday, the prisoners were transferred in four Israel Prison Service vehicles from Hasharon Prison to Ofer Prison and Hashikma Prison, where they were examined by officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross to ascertain that they were in good health.
One prisoner left for Gaza via the Erez Crossing from Hashikma Prison, while the remaining 18 entered the West Bank from Ofer Prison via the Beitunya Crossing.
In Gaza, the released prisoner, originally from the Islamic Jihad, was ceremoniously received by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. She entered Gaza with an 18-month-old baby to which she gave birth to in prison. Haniyeh announced the infant "the youngest Palestinian prisoner."
Hamas tried to milk the deal to the maximum, marketing it to Palestinians as proof that it was the Islamist group that brought results and not the bitter rivals of Hamas, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement.
Celebrations were much more overt and public in Gaza, despite the fact that only one of the 19 prisoners released Friday came to Gaza.
Earlier, Israel Radio reported that Hamas media outlets played propaganda jingles all day and issued calls to Gazans to march the streets in celebration of the women's release.
None of the prisoners on the list were convicted of offenses which involved casualties; most were jailed for failed terror attacks or for filling out support roles. All were nearing the end of their jail sentences.
Israel usually releases prisoners of this sort as a goodwill gesture during the Islamic holiday of Ramadan, though none were released by Netanyahu's administration this year. The deal Friday was the first release of Palestinian prisoners under the Netanyahu government.