Hamas: We’ve Resumed Shalit Talks With Israel


hamasHamas resumed indirect negotiations with Israel aimed at exchanging abducted Israel Defense Force soldier Gilad Shalit for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners currently held in Israeli jails, Hamas official Ali Barakeh said yesterday. Shalit was kidnapped by Gaza militants in a cross-border raid in June, 2006. Efforts to secure his release in a prisoner exchange with Hamas have so far yielded no results. Barakeh said that a delegation from Hamas is in Cairo to pursue a deal.

Also, Palestinian sources reported that Egytian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman had sent an envoy to Israel, and that he had spent the last two days here. The sources said that the Egyptian official was sent to Israel in order to revive talks geared at securing Shalit’s release.

Egyptians sources have clarified that efforts to secure a prisoner exchange agreement have resumed and will continue in the following days until a deal is reached.

Israeli officials sounded similar comments yesterday.

Prisoner exchange talks broke down ten days ago, after the negotiations, mediated by Egypt, got bogged down. The Israeli side accused Hamas of sabotaging the deal by toughening its stance, while Egypt and Hamas maintained that it was Israel that was unyielding and unwilling to compromise, while Hamas’ demands remained as they had always been.

According to Israeli sources, the talks got stuck Israel’s refusal to release 125 of the 450 prisoners on Hamas’ list. Another point of contention deals with the deportation of Palestinian prisoners from Gaza. Israel demands that 140 of the prisoners it will release from Israeli jails not be allowed to return to Gaza. Hamas is willing to agree to the deportation of only a handful of Palestinians.

It appears that now, both sides will focus solely on completing the deal before the end of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s term and the swearing in of the new government, led by Likud Chairman Binyomin Netnayahu. However, it is not clear whether the gaps between the two sides can be bridged within this time frame. It is also unclear whether Hamas has handed Israel a revised prisoner list.

{Yair Alpert-Matzav.com Israel/Haaretz}