Mashaal: Israel must free our prisoners


ahmadinejad mashaal hamas 248 88 (photo credit: )
ahmadinejad mashaal hamas 248 88
(photo credit: )
Israeli intransigence caused a breakdown in negotiations to release captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Tuesday. Speaking in Teheran, Mashaal said the Israelis have no choice but to free the Palestinian prisoners Hamas wants if it ever wants to see Schalit again. "Israeli stubbornness is disrupting the process," he said in a press conference following meetings with the Iranian leaders. "The Israeli leadership, [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and his team, have no choice except to meet our demands concerning the number of Palestinian prisoners who will be released, they know very well that Schalit won't be with them except for this way." A few weeks ago a breakthrough seemed imminent, but a deal never materialized, reportedly due to Israeli objections to certain names on the Palestinian list. Government spokesman Mark Regev said that Israel does not comment on the negotiations to free Schalit, but he also told The Associated Press, "No one should find it surprising that the Hamas leader is considered a desired guest in Teheran. The regime in Gaza and the regime in Teheran share the same fanatical theology." Mashaal went on to say that resistance was the only way of dealing with Israel, which it said was not serious about peace negotiations. He also thanked Iran for backing the Palestinian cause, but declined to comment about whether that support included weapons. He did, however, warn that his group would back Iran, if it was attacked by Israel. "All of the Islamic groups will take a united front with Iran against Israel," he told reporters. "We're all parts of the same body, we need to fight against the common enemy." Mashaal said his main topic of conversation with the Iranian leaders was restoring Palestinian unity to confront Israel. Mashaal said he was open to reconciliation with Fatah, but called the current Palestinian central committee "illegitimate" because it had not been chosen through elections. Talks between the Palestinian factions have repeatedly foundered and this week, Abbas' security forces rounded up more than a 100 Hamas activists in the West Bank, making progress on reconciliation even more unlikely.