Mashaal: Hamas won't back down

‘Freedom March’ stops for Shabbat in front of PM’s Caesarea residence.

freedom march 311 (photo credit: Ariel Schalit/AP)
freedom march 311
(photo credit: Ariel Schalit/AP)
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Saturday he was prepared to return to negotiations over the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, who has been held by Hamas in Gaza for the last four years.
Indirect talks between Israel and Hamas broke down at the end of last year, when Israel refused to include all the prisoners Hamas had demanded on its list of 1,000 Palestinians that it was willing to release for Schalit.
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Netanyahu has said that some of them were too dangerous to be freed, but has offered alternative names.
Mashaal said Hamas would not back down from its demands.
“If one soldier isn’t enough to release our prisoners, we will do everything to capture more soldiers,” he said.
He spoke as the Schalit family is in the midst of an 11-day trek to Jerusalem in hopes of forcing Netanyahu to finalize a deal for their son’s release.
In response the Schalit’s “Freedom March,” the families of Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel have planned a march of their own to take place in the Gaza Strip on Sunday.
The prisoners’ families are expected to march to the house of Hamas official Mahmoud a- Zahar.
The march’s organizer, The Supreme Committee for Prisoners in Gaza, will demand that Hamas leadership insist that all of the prisoners on Hamas’s original Schalit exchange list be freed in a deal for the kidnapped soldier.
Netanyahu, in an interview with Channel 1 on Friday, said he sympathized with the Schalit family, but as prime minister he could not pay any price to free their son if it would lead to the deaths of Israeli civilians.
“A day does not go by when I do not work for Gilad’s release. When I meet with [Gilad’s parents] Noam and Aviva and his grandfather Tzvi, I think of the suffering they are going through.
For four years no one has seen him,” said Netanyahu.
He made reference to his brother Yoni, who was killed during the 1976 rescue mission in Entebbe.
“I think of my brother; what would I not do for his return?” said Netanyahu. “I can understand the call of a father or mother who wants their son back. There is no price that a mother or father won’t pay.
“I will pay a heavy price. We will free 1,000 security prisoners, including terrorists, but we won’t agree to the suggestion that they enter the area of Judea and Samaria,” said Netanyahu.
From there, he said, they can get anywhere in Israel to execute terror attacks, he said.
In the past, he said, those who were freed, turned around and committed terror attacks that killed Israelis. As a prime minister he has to weigh the nation’s responsibility to free captive soldiers against its responsibility to prevent the possible deaths of Israelis in future terror attacks.
On Friday, 20,000 people joined the Schalit family as they marched in the Netanya area.
Some 14,000 rallied with them in the evening as they held a protest outside Netanyahu’s residence in Caesarea.
Aviva Schalit, Gilad’s mother, opened the ceremony by saying “thousands of people who have supported us and marched with us over the past week stand behind us.”
Aviva responded to a speech by Netanyahu on Thursday, in which he said that Israel would not pay any price for the release for Gilad.
“We never asked for release at all costs; the cost was determined by the Israeli government.
Now we are saying enough,” said Aviva.
The family rested for Shabbat and plans to resume its march on Sunday morning. It will reach Jerusalem on Thursday.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.