Middle East News
Israel-Hamas prisoner swap talks enter critical stage
Nov 25, 2009, 9:16 GMT
Gaza/Damascus - Negotiations over a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas have entered a critical stage, well- informed officials close to the Islamist organization said Wednesday.
The deal, if successful, will see an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, returned to Israel after begin held in the Gaza Strip for over three years, in return for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
The officials, quoted by the London-based al-Hayat daily, said Hamas officials will meet in Damascus Wednesday to discuss an Israeli proposal delivered via a German mediator in Cairo.
They said, however, that the Hamas delegation which arrived in Syria from Gaza and the Hamas leaders in Damascus held different opinions on the Israeli proposal.
The unnamed officials said Israel offered to free long-term prisoners, but at the same time rejected releasing around 70 others and even exiling them from the Palestinian territories.
Ibrahim Hamed, the former Hamas West Bank leader who masterminded attacks which killed a total of 76 Israelis, and Abdullah Barghouti, who manufactured most of the bombs used by Hamas in Jerusalem between 2001 and 2003, are among the prisoners Israel refuses to free.
Hamas leaders insist Israel free all the prisoners on the list they handed over.