Hamas: Schalit deal will only go ahead 'on our terms'

Group's leader in Gaza says "occupation must understand that all its attempts have failed over past 5 years.

Mahmoud al-Zahar smirking  (R) 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Mahmoud al-Zahar smirking (R) 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
The deal to release captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit will only go ahead on Hamas' terms, the groups leader in Gaza, Mahmoud al-Zahar, declared on Monday.
Al-Zahar warned that "the occupation must understand that all its attempts over the last five years have failed even when faced with the patience of Hamas and the Palestinian people."
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday appointed David Meidan to replace Hagai Hadas in efforts to broker a deal with Hamas and gain the release of Schalit, who has been held in Gaza for almost five years.
Netanyahu informed Schalit’s parents, Noam and Aviva, of the new appointment at a late-night meeting he held with them, accompanied by his wife, Sara, at his Jerusalem residence.
Meidan has held a senior position in the Mossad and has already been involved in efforts to secure Schalit’s release. He was chosen out of a number of candidates.
Before leaving his post, Hadas will work briefly with Meidan so that he can bring him up to speed.
Hadas announced last week that he was stepping down once his two-year term expired, a step he said he had always anticipated taking.
In a statement the prime minister released to the media after the meeting, Netanyahu said Israel was continuing to work behind the scenes to free the soldier. Such activities will continue, Netanyahu said.
“I assure you that in the coming days and weeks, we will continue to operate by all the means that we have to bring about the release of Gilad,” he said.
Following the meeting, Noam Schalit said that the prime minister told him and his wife that efforts to free their son are ongoing, but without results.
He told Israel Radio that in the private meeting, which lasted over an hour, he and Aviva expressed their protest and frustration that two governments in five years have been unable to bring their son home.
Noting that the prime minister's invitation suggested he would be provided with updates about developments in the efforts to return his son, Noam said: "Unfortunately, the only thing we heard about was the appointment of the new [mediator]."
President Shimon Peres will visit with the Schalits on Monday in a demonstration of solidarity and to assure them that the state is doing everything possible to bring home their son.
Peres will also spend time talking to the people who have been a constant source of support to the Schalits.
Tovah Lazaroff and Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.