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Terror Spokesman: Our Demands to Free 1,000 Terrorists are Just

A spokesman for one of the organizations responsible for the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit faults Israel for wanting proof that the soldier is still alive without freeing 250 terrorists in exchange.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 1/10/2007, 4:26 PM / Last Update: 1/10/2007, 10:20 AM

Abu Mujahid, a spokesman for the Hamas-affiliated Popular Resistance Committees, spoke with the Palestinian Authority news agency Maan about the stalled talks for the release of kidnapped IDF Corp. Gilad Shalit.

The spokesman blamed Israel for sabotaging the talks, saying Israel should have accepted the Egyptian proposal. This proposal, he said, "was the closest one to the Palestinian demands in terms of the number of terrorists [to be freed from Israeli prisons] and the criteria for their release." He said that Israel actually expected to receive "free information" proving that Gilad Shalit was alive, while Hamas had demanded 250 prisoners in exchange for a video of the soldier.

Abu Mujahid says that Gilad's health is fine, and "he is being treated according to Islamic tradition... He was not humiliated or tortured." An Egyptian source also said recently that Shalit was alive, but no outside observers, such as the Red Cross, have ever been allowed to verify this.

Shalit was captured over six months ago by a group of eight Palestinian Hamas terrorists who tunneled underground from Gaza into Israel, murdered two tank
crewmembers, wounded a third, and took Shalit captive. Prime Minister Olmert said at the time that he holds PA chief Abu Mazen "personally responsible" for Shalit's safety, and said he would not conduct negotiations with Hamas for the soldier's release.

How many terrorists is Hamas demanding in exchange for Shalit? Though rumors of 1,400 have been circulating for months, Abu Mujahid has a different story: "Our just and humane demand is for the release of 1,000 Arab and Palestinian prisoners, including women and youths - and it will not change. The occupiers will surrender to our demands in the end, because stalling and condescension will not return the kidnapped soldier home... [We] can hold him for years."

Addressing remarks to Shalit's family, Abu Mujahid said, "Your government does not want to return your son back home. If it would have agreed to the Egyptian proposal, he would have been home already."

The two other IDF soldiers captured last year, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, were taken by Hamas at the start of the war in Lebanon. Information regarding their condition is even sparser than that on Shalit, and Olmert even let slip several weeks ago that he "hopes" they are alive.