Report: Shalit Deal Stuck Over 48 Prisoners


gilad-shalit-smallA dispute over the release of 48 Israeli Arab prisoners and east Yerushalayim residents is delaying the deal aimed at securing the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reports. According to the report, Israel has agreed to release all the West Bank and Gaza residents demanded by Hamas.

The newspaper also quoted a senior Israeli official as saying that Israel knows where Hamas is holding Shalit and is monitoring the place 24 hours a day. Israel is avoiding releasing Shalit in a military operation for fear that he would be hurt, the source said, adding that Hamas was aware of Israel’s knowledge.

The newspaper said that Hamas was insisting on the release of the Israeli prisoners, as most of them have been sentenced to long jail terms. It has also been reported that some of those prisoners are affiliated with Hamas and have helped carry out attacks in Israel during the intifada. Israel, however, refuses to free these prisoners as their release would constitute a dangerous precedent.

Arab sources told the newspaper that the German mediator had suggested that Hamas replace those same prisoners with other Arab prisoners jailed in Israeli prisons – a compromise rejected by Hamas.

According to those sources, Israel has already agreed to release the prisoners considered commanders of Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, who are serving long jail terms after being involved in the killing of Israelis, and who are slated to be released in the first stage of the deal as Gilad Shalit is transferred to Egypt.

According to the report, Hamas has agreed to the deportation of some of the prisoners to countries outside the Palestinian Authority, after several Arab states – including Syria, Yemen, Sudan and Qatar agreed to take them in.

The sources said that the United States had played an important role, with the encouragement of Arab countries, in helping advance the prisoner exchange deal.

As for the videotape showing Gilad Shalit alive and well, Palestinian sources said it was aimed at pressuring Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the ministers to speed up the negotiations.

On the other hand, other sources said that Hamas made a mistake in handing the tape to Israel, since presenting Shalit in good health gave the Israeli government more options for maneuvering.

{Yair Israel/Ynet}