Hamas: 'Israel exaggerating Schalit talks on purpose'

Despite PM's confirmation of Schalit negotiations, Mahmoud Zahar says talks are meant to distract from Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Mahmoud Zahar 298 (photo credit: AP)
Mahmoud Zahar 298
(photo credit: AP)
Israeli talk about progress in negotiations over the release of Gilad Schalit is intended to divert attention from the harsh actions the state carries out against Palestinian prisoners in its jails, Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar told Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram on Monday.
Zahar said talks with the representatives of the jailed prisoners came only after Israel found out that the prisoners intended to hold a strike.
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The Hamas official added that the talks had failed and no new positions were introduced, contrary to Israeli media reports.    
In an interview Sunday morning with Army Radio, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu confirmed that contacts started anew a number of weeks ago to gain Schalit's release.
"There has been a renewal of contact with the German negotiator,” Netanyahu said, adding that his office is dealing with the Schalit dossier on a continuous basis in a variety of ways.
The central channel, he said, is “negotiation [through the German mediator] that started a number of weeks ago.”
Gerhard Konrad is expected to continue his efforts to broker an exchange of Palestinian prisoners for the release of Schalit, reported east Jerusalem newspaper Al Manar on Monday.
Konrad reportedly said he is interested in reaching a settlement by the end of the year and noted that "there are encouraging signs from Hamas."
The German mediator allegedly plans to speak with, and offer new ideas, to both sides.
Schalit’s father, Noam, told The Jerusalem Post that as far as he knew, efforts to release his son have been stuck since last January with no progress in sight.
Herb Keinon and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this story.