Palestinians disappointed PA prisoners won't be included in swap

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum hails the agreement as a "victory" for Hizbullah.

Regev Goldwasser 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
Regev Goldwasser 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Palestinians on Sunday reacted with mixed feelings to the news about the Israel-Hizbullah prisoner exchange agreement. While many Palestinians expressed joy over the decision to release Lebanese prisoner Samir Kuntar, they also voiced disappointment because the deal did not include Palestinian inmates. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum hailed the agreement as a "victory" for Hizbullah. "This is an achievement for the will and steadfastness of the Lebanese resistance," he said. "This also proves that rights can only be restored by force." However, Fatah and Hamas representatives criticized Hizbullah for failing to demand the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. They said Hizbullah could have easily secured the release of several hundred Palestinians in return for IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. "This is a very bad deal as far as the Palestinians are concerned," said a top Fatah operative in Ramallah. "Hassan Nasrallah has betrayed the Palestinians by signing a separate deal with Israel." A senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip also expressed disappointment with Nasrallah, saying the majority of the Palestinians couldn't understand why he "turned his back on us." He said that following the kidnapping of the two soldiers, many Palestinian factions and families sent Hizbullah lists with the names of Palestinian prisoners whom they wished to be included in a future prisoner swap with Israel. "Nasrallah has shown that he does not really care about the Palestinians," the Hamas official said. "There is no doubt he could have got much more from Israel in return for the two soldiers. But we don't understand why he chose to act in this way." The Palestinians have long referred to Kuntar as a "hero." According to Palestinian Media Watch, the Palestinian Authority regarded Kuntar as an "ideal" prisoner. "On the one hand, Kuntar embodies what the PA considers the 'heroism' of terrorists fighting Israel," the group said. "On the other hand, he's the ultimate symbol of all terrorist prisoners who have murdered Israelis and will eventually be freed as a result of future kidnappings or through some other means." PA Television, controlled by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, recently broadcast a picture honoring Kuntar, who is depicted beside a map of Israel completely covered by the Palestinian flag. In Beirut, Hizbullah said the Israeli approval of the deal was a reflection of the Islamist group's strength. "What happened in the prisoners issue is a proof that the word of the resistance is the most faithful, strongest and supreme," the group's Al-Manar TV quoted Hizbullah's Executive Council Chief Hashem Safieddine as saying. In the southern Lebanese city of Sidon, members of the Popular Democratic Party were decorating the central Martyrs Square with pictures of Kuntar and hanging banners such as "Freedom to the hero, prisoner Samir Kuntar," "the chain must break," and "freedom comes with blood not tears." Hamas, meanwhile, denied that a date had been set for starting indirect negotiations with Israel over the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit. AP contributed to this report.