Israel held up a deal to free abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit by refusing to release 15 senior Palestinian prisoners whose names had already been secured for the exchange, a Hamas official told the Al-Hayyat daily on Thursday.The official also told the daily that German mediator Gerhard Conrad met recently with jailed Hamas leader Hassan Youssef to discuss further details of the exchange.
He added that Hamas’ military leader, Ahmed Al-Jabri has no interest in pursuing any prisoner exchange that does not include those 15 militants, who include Ahmed Sadaat and Marwan Bargouthi.
Hamas had stated it would not free Shalit unless Israel released all 450 prisoners on the list the organization passed on to Egypt four years ago. Israel agreed to release most of those on the list, apart from a few dozen it sees as most dangerous.
Israel demanded the expulsion of close to 100 of the released prisoners from the West Bank, their home. But Hamas refused, demanding the prisoners be allowed to return home to the West Bank and not be deported to Gaza.
Top Hamas official Musa Abu Marzuq confirmed last weekend that the German-mediated negotiations have resumed and said Conrad visited the coastal enclave two weeks ago in a bid to resume the frozen negotiations.
Shalit was kidnapped by Gaza militants in a cross-border raid in 2006 and has been held by Hamas since.