The transfer of a senior Palestinian Authority terrorist led to rumors of an imminent prisoner swap on Tuesday. However, sources in Israel's Prison Services deny that the transfer had anything to do with negotiations.
The terrorist transferred was Ahmed Saadat, a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Saadat was moved from the Shikma prison in Ashkelon to the prison near Mitzpeh Rimon.
Saadat is serving 30 years in prison for planning the murder of former Tourism Ministry Rehavam Zeevi.
The PA-based Maan news reported that Saadat had joined other senior terrorists in the new prison. Maan writers quoted anonymous Israeli sources as saying that Saadat and other senior terrorists were being gathered in one place in preparation for a possible prisoner exchange deal.
The report follows rumors in recent days that Israel and Hamas have made progress towards a prisoner exchange deal. The rumors have been denied by senior officials on both sides.
Israel and Hamas have been negotiating for over a year regarding a possible exchange deal in which terrorists imprisoned in Israel would be freed in exchange for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Saadat's transfer occurred at approximately the same time that Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose senior officials have been mediating in the Israel-Hamas talks.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed in principle to release hundreds of prisoners demanded by Hamas, but refused to release Saadat and dozens of others convicted of taking part in murder.
Prison Services officials issued a denial of the Maan report, and said Saadat was transferred according to “internal considerations” unrelated to prisoner release talks.