Hot on the heels of Hizbullah's success in the recent terrorist-exchange, Hamas demands the release of 450 terrorist prisoners from Israeli jails in exchange for the release of captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Hamas says that it has not received a response from Israel, and that if Israel does not comply with this demand, Hamas will up its demand to 1,000 terrorist prisoners. The threat was made by Hamas member Usama Hamdan, speaking with the London-based Al Hayat newspaper.
Corp. Shalit was kidnapped in a Hamas raid in June 2006, when terrorists tunneled under the Gaza-Israel border. Two other soldiers were killed in the attack.
Hamas Plays on Israeli Public Opinion
The transparent attempt by Hamas to manipulate Israeli public opinion by issuing the ultimatum appears to be a direct consequence of the recent deal made with Hizbullah. The government's consent to that deal is widely agreed to have been more the result of perceived public demand for the return of two dead soldiers, and less the result of considered strategic policy.
Hamdan, in fact, who issued the threat, is based in Hizbullah's home country of Lebanon.
In the exchange, which occurred two weeks ago, Hizbullah returned the bodies of two soldiers - Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser- whom they had abducted and murdered two years ago. In return, the terrorist organization received from Israel the lopsided price of five live terrorists, including child-murderer and Hizbullah hero Samir Kuntar, as well as the bodies of nearly 200 Hizbullah terrorists and Lebanese infiltrators.
Israel was not officially informed that its two soldiers were dead until the moment that the exchange was actually carried out, such that it did not even know what it was negotiating for.
Hamas Delegation in Cairo
A Hamas delegation is currently in Cairo, where Egyptian brokers are attempting to mediate a deal for Shalit's release.
Israel has thus far agreed to release several dozens of the specific terrorists that Hamas demands. Hamas does not even have a complete list of terrorists that it is demanding, as its various factions have not been able to come to an agreement on the matter.
Abbas Reported to Have Threatened to Dismantle PA
Hamas-Fatah tensions are also complicating matters; Haaretz reported that Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah threatened to dismantle the entire PA if Israel releases Hamas terrorists in return for Shalit. However, Fatah later threatened to sue Haaretz for the report, saying it is not true.