Mashaal: 'Deal progress depends on Barak visit'

Hamas official: Mashaal may go to Cairo to discuss truce and Schalit if Barak meeting successful.

Mashaal 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Mashaal 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Advancement in a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas and the release of abducted soldier Gilad Schalit depend on the results of Defense Minister Ehud Barak's visit to Egypt, a senior aide to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told the London-based Al Hayat newspaper on Wednesday. According to adviser Ahmed Yusef, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is awaiting the outcome of Wednesday's meeting between Barak and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak before possibly sending his deputy or traveling to Cairo himself in the near future. "I believe that Mashaal's visit to Cairo is dependant on the results of Barak's visit," Yusef told the paper. Yusef explained that the Egyptians were waiting to hear Israel's offer on a possible deal. He expected the issue of Schalit to be a central point in the meeting. Yusef added that there was nothing new about Hamas's demands in a possible prisoner swap, and said that advancement in the process depended on the numbers and names offered by Israel. "What's new is the renewal of Egyptian involvement" in such a deal, he said. Yusef dispelled reports that Hamas had offered a non-conditional truce, or hudna, to Israel. The organization was only speaking of a temporary period of calm, or tahadiya, which would last several months, and no one was thinking of giving such calm "for free," he said. In return, Israel would have to open the Gaza Strip's crossings and stop air strikes and ground incursions into the Gaza Strip, Yusef stated. He said a truce would be upheld if all Palestinian factions agreed to it, and added that a tahadiya that would reduce the suffering of the Palestinian people was in the interest of all Palestinians. Meanwhile, Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida quoted a "senior Egyptian source" as expressing optimism regarding the prospects for a deal to free Schalit. Egyptian mediation on the issue was close to succeeding, the source told the paper. The deal, he said, would include the release of 500 Palestinian prisoners, including "important, significant names," as well as Hamas legislators arrested following Schalit's capture. The source added that he believed a truce between Israel and Hamas would last for at least three months.