Mashaal to travel to Cairo on Schalit

Hamas leader will meet with Egyptian officials on possible prisoner exchange deal, Palestinian unity.

Mashaal  248.88 (photo credit: )
Mashaal 248.88
(photo credit: )
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is scheduled to visit Cairo on Saturday for talks with Egyptian government officials on the possibility of reaching a prisoner exchange agreement with Israel and ending the power struggle between the Islamic movement and Fatah. Ayman Taha, a spokesman for Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said that there was nothing new regarding the case of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. "The only new development is the intervention of the Germans in the mediation efforts," he said. "Other than that, I can't say that there's anything new regarding this case." Taha dismissed recent reports in the Arab media about a breakthrough in the prisoner exchange talks as speculation. He said that the reports were part of an Israeli-orchestrated media campaign designed to exert pressure on Hamas and to calm the Palestinian street. Taha described the German efforts as "extremely serious," noting that German mediators had met with Hamas officials 11 times in a short period of 30 days. He claimed that Israeli "intransigence" was the main reason why a deal has not been reached yet. On Thursday, a high-level Hamas delegation from the Gaza Strip was also summoned to Cairo for talks on the Schalit case and ending the rift with Hamas. The delegation is headed by Khalil al-Hayeh, a senior Hamas official, and consists of Nizar Awadallah, Yasser Harb Mousa, Mohammed al-Ustaz, Ali Hamed Abdullah, Ismail al-Hayeh and Hammam Haniyeh [son of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh]. The Hamas officials are expected to hold intensive talks with Gen. Omar Suleiman, head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, and a series of top government officials on the possibility of reaching a prisoner swap deal with Israel before the end of the holy month of Ramadan in two weeks, a Hamas legislator in the Gaza Strip said. The legislator told The Jerusalem Post that the Germans and Egyptians were exerting "unprecedented" pressure on Hamas to make concessions that would pave the way for such a deal. These concessions, he explained, include agreement to the deportation of dozens of Palestinian prisoners slated to be released in the context of an agreement between the two parties. Hamas has repeatedly rejected the idea, insisting that all the inmates who would be released would be permitted to return to their homes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. According to the legislator, Hamas is also being requested to drop its demand that Israeli Arab security prisoners be released as part of a prisoner exchange deal.