Hamas Backtracks on Truce and Freeing Shalit


610x2Syrian-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal has poured cold water on previous statements by less senior Hamas officials that the terrorist organization would agree on Sunday to an Egyptian-mediated truce with Israel that also would end the nearly 1,000-day-old of captivity of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. “There has been a complication and we don’t know if that date will be kept to,” Mashaal told French news agency AFP, without specifying the problem.Hamas’ deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuk said late Thursday that an 18-month truce would be announced in return for opening all Gaza crossings, including Rafiah, which straddles the border between Gaza and Egypt. He made no mention of Shalit, but the Israeli government has said the crossings will remain closed if Shalit is not freed.

Hamas and the Olmert government may be pressured to reach an agreement, each for its own reasons, before a new coalition government is created, possibly as early as next week. Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is anxious to end his term of office by fulfilling his promise to bring back Shalit, although he also promised in the past he would not pay the price of releasing terrorists who have murdered Israelis.

The soldier continues to be a pawn in the negotiations, which are complicated by the questions of who will monitor the Rafiah crossing and what materials will be allowed to enter Gaza. Hamas wants the free flow of construction materials needed to rebuild Gaza following the Israeli campaign against the terrorist infrastructure in the region, but Israel fears the same materials will be used to rebuild stockpiles of arms.

Other issues involve a buffer zone between Israel and Gaza and mechanisms to prevent Hamas from smuggling arms into Gaza.

The issues are tangled with talks between senior officials from Hamas and Fatah on the creation of a new unity government despite previous statements by outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that bringing Hamas back into the PA political picture would spell an end to direct negotiations between him and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erakat has rejected linking Shalit’s release with re-opening the crossings, charging Israel with “blackmail.”

The IDF late Friday afternoon bombed four smuggling tunnels that were being used to bring in weapons and ammunition into Gaza and also struck two facilities used to manufacture weapons. The strikes came in retaliation for continued rocket attacks on Israel despite Hamas’s declared ceasefire.

{Yair Alpert-Matzav.com Newscenter/INN/Machlaka Rishona}