Hamas says prisoner swap talks have resumed

Representatives of Islamist group travel to Cairo for negotiations on abducted IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.

gilad schalit 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
gilad schalit 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Hamas confirmed on Thursday that its representatives have traveled to Cairo for talks on the fate of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. A Hamas official in the Gaza Strip said that "a number of Hamas operatives" had been summoned by the Egyptian authorities as part of renewed efforts to reach agreement with Israel over a prisoner exchange. The official refused to comment on a report in the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper, according to which Ahmed Jabari, commander of Hamas's armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, was among the Hamas representatives who headed to Egypt. The report claimed that Marwan Issa, another senior member of Izzadin Kassam, was also in Egypt for the same purpose. The newspaper quoted "informed Palestinian sources" as saying that indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas over the release of Schalit and Palestinian prisoners held in Israel jails had actually been resumed from the point where they ended a few months ago. Hamas is demanding, in return for Schalit, the release of some 1,000 prisoners, half of whom are serving lengthy sentences for their involvement in killing Israelis. Osama Mazini, a top Hamas official who serves as a spokesman on the Schalit case, said on Thursday that his movement was not opposed to renewing the negotiations with Israel over a prisoner swap. He pointed out that Hamas's demands for the release of Schalit remained unchanged. "We continue to insist on the release of 1,000 prisoners, including those serving lengthy sentences, women, minors and the elderly," he said. "If they accept our conditions, the case of the soldier will be over." Mazini added that Hamas had no plans to soften its position or change its demands. He said that the Egyptians would continue to act as mediators between Israel and Hamas in an attempt to achieve agreement over a prisoner exchange.