Arab media: Schalit deal not close

Flurry of media reports seem to refute claims that a prisoner exchange deal is nearing completion.

mashaal check caption please 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
mashaal check caption please 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Arab media on Monday morning seemed to confirm that a deal between Israel and Hamas to free captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit was not close to completion, despite a flurry of reports in recent days. A Jordanian report cited by Israel Radio quoted senior Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal as saying that his group had demanded the release of Jordanians held in Israeli prisons as part of a prisoner exchange deal. Jordanian daily Al-Arab al-Yawm also quoted Mashaal as saying that he had spoken with family members of Jordanian prisoners. Also Monday, Hamas deputy political leader Moussa Abu Marzouk was quoted by the Arabic-language Al-Hayat newspaper as saying that such a deal was nowhere near close to completion. He told the London-based paper that Hamas had not agreed to the banishment of Palestinian prisoners released as part of the deal. Another London-based Arabic daily, a-Sharq al-Awsat, reported that the bone of contention preventing Israel and Hamas from finalizing a prisoner exchange deal was Jerusalem's refusal to release Israeli Arabs. According to the report, Israel was not willing to give in to a Hamas demand that Israeli-Arabs, specifically east Jerusalem residents, be included in the group of prisoners released in exchange for Schalit. A statement made by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday, meanwhile, noted that while talks were making progress, Schalit would not be released in the next day or two. He also told ministers during Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting that while the government was committed to making every effort to free Schalit, they should ignore media reports and rumors. Netanyahu said his government was committed to bringing Schalit home "safe and sound," but that there was a great deal of "exaggeration, incomplete and false information in the media" over the case. Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon contributed to this report