Prisoner tape released to get info

Sources in PMO say recording of Hizbullah man meant to generate info on abducted Israeli soldiers.

Ami Ayalon 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Ami Ayalon 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel released a tape of an interview with a Hizbullah prisoner to a Saudi satellite station that was aired Thursday, sources in the Prime Minister's Office confirmed Saturday night. Although the sources would not say why the tape was released, it was widely believed that it was done in an effort to gain information on kidnapped soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. The sources said this was not the first time Israel had released tapes of Lebanese prisoners in its possession. The tape was given to an MBC reporter in Israel, and aired on the station. Hizbullah has provided no information on the fate of Regev and Goldwasser, nor allowed any visit from the Red Cross. Meanwhile, Hamas was seeking a new list of 350 prisoners to be released in exchange for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, Channel 2 reported over the weekend. The new list, said to be less demanding of Israel than a previous list of 450 prisoners, was reportedly formulated in meetings held by Hamas leader in exile Khaled Mashaal in Mecca. Minister-without-Portfolio and former head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Ami Ayalon criticized the intelligence community Saturday regarding the lack of information on the whereabouts of Schalit. Ayalon said that due to an "intelligence failure" it was impossible to free Schalit in a military operation. "There is not enough intelligence in order to carry out such an operation and this stems from an intelligence flaw. The intelligence community has not managed to gather enough information on the issue," Ayalon said in a speech at a "Cultural Shabbat" event in the Gilboa. Ayalon also criticized Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision to release Palestinian prisoners ahead of the Annapolis summit. "We have to reevaluate our policy," said Ayalon in an address at Kibbutz Moledet. "Palestinian prisoners should not be held as bargaining chips, but we have to rethink the release criteria." He added that Hamas could not be considered as a partner for negotiations until they recognized Israel's right to exist, and worked to halt rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. Ayalon also spoke of a possible large-scale IDF operation in Gaza, and said such an extensive operation was not required. He also said Israel must open dialogue with Hamas to prevent the firing of Kassam rockets toward the western Negev. Nevertheless, Ayalon said Israel should not conduct political negotiations with Hamas so long as Hamas refused to recognize the existence of a Jewish state and a two-state solution. Sheera Claire Frenkel contributed to this report.