Schalit activists block Palestinian prisoners' relatives

Protesters stand in front of bus, with signs that read "Who is visiting Gilad?"; 'Al Hayat': Israeli, Hamas envoys in Cairo for Schalit talks.

Gilad Schalit old 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS)
Gilad Schalit old 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Fifty activists in the Negev on Monday tried to stop Palestinians from visiting their jailed relatives, as the media reported that Hamas and Israel has begun a new round of indirect negotiations in Cairo for the release of captive soldier Gilad Schalit.
The protesters blocked a road at Halukim Junction to stop the bus from arriving at the Nifha prison.
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According to Channel 10, protesters parked a vehicle across the road as the bus approached.
Some protesters tried to board the bus to speak with prisoners’ family members.
Police arrived on the scene and escorted the bus carrying visitors to the prison down a different route to its destination.
During the protest, activists hung signs on the bus that said “Who is visiting Gilad?” “No visitation for Gilad – no visitation for you too,” and “Gilad wants to go home.” The protesters contrasted the poor conditions of Schalit’s captivity to the good conditions enjoyed by Palestinian security prisoners, who receive family visitation rights. The protesters said they were angry over Hamas’s refusal to allow anyone to visit Schalit in Gaza, including the International Red Cross.
According to the London-based newspaper Al Hayat negotiations were reportedly taking place in an Egyptian intelligence complex, with Palestinians and Israelis meeting with Egyptian officials in separate rooms. Egyptian mediators carried messages from room to room in order to conduct negotiations.
The Palestinian delegation was led by Mohammed al-Ja’bari, a senior member of Hamas’s military wing Izz ad-Din al-Qassa, and the Israeli side by David Midan, the head of the special envoy in the Schalit affair. Midan is a former senior Mossad official.
According to the report, published representatives from Jerusalem and the Islamist group met last week but failed to produce any results in negotiations, prompting Egyptian mediators to push for renewed talks.
A senior Egyptian official told Al Hayat Monday, “It is not yet possible to talk about any breakthroughs in negotiations,” but added optimistically that “there is a real willingness by both sides to move forward on the deal, and Israel is ready to pay the price for freeing Schalit.”
Hamas has, as of late, expressed optimism that current negotiations will lead to fruitful results.
According to Al Hayat, a senior official from the Islamist group said last Wednesday his movement expects “positive developments” in efforts to achieve a prisoner swap with Israel in return for Schalit.
Musa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the Damascus- based Hamas “political bureau,” said his optimism was based on “internal pressure” on the Israeli government and changes in the makeup of the mediating team.
Hamas, he added, continues to insist on the release of prisoners who are serving lengthy sentences, opposes the deportation of inmates to other countries and won’t compromise on the number of prisoners it has demanded in return for Schalit.
In the past Hamas has asked for the release of 1,000 prisoners in exchange Schalit.
It has insisted that Israel must release 450 prisoners that it names, and that Israel can determine the other 550 to be freed.
Hamas has included prisoners responsible for terror attacks against Israelis in its list.
A spokesman for the Campaign to Free Gilad Schalit said the family had not been notified of any new developments.
The Prime Minister’s Office and Defense Minister Ehud Barak would not comment Monday on the reports.
Barak said the less the matter was talked about the better. To speak of any efforts to release Schalit, only decreases the chance of their success, he said.
Schalit has been held captive by Hamas in Gaza for the last five years.
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.