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Hamas: Shalit Deal is Stuck

Arab media reports that once again, Hamas has decided to reject a prisoner exchange deal for the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
By Hana Levi Julian and Dalit HaLevy
First Publish: 11/26/2009, 11:41 AM / Last Update: 11/26/2009, 12:09 PM

Israel news photo

The Hamas terrorist organization is reportedly once again planning to reject a nearly-completed deal for the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and hundreds of Palestinian terrorists.

The newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported Wednesday that the rejection was leaked by a senior Hamas source who participated in a meeting of the terrorist leadership in Damascus the day before. The source said the organization's leadership had resolved to reject Israel's demand to change a list of prisoners Hamas had submitted as part of the Shalit prisoner exchange deal.

The report said there would be no chance of completing the deal without the release of top terrorists Ibrahim Hamad and Abdullah Barghouti, as well as other commanders of the military wing of Hamas. Both are responsible for the deaths of dozens of Israelis, and Jerusalem has refused to release them, even if the terrorist group agrees to exile them abroad.

Hamad served as commander of the military wing of Hamas in Ramallah during the Second Intifada. Abdullah Barghouti is the Hamas mastermind who prepared the explosives belts and devices used in suicide bombings in Jerusalem, including the attack on Cafe Hillel, the cafeteria at Hebrew University, the Moment Cafe and the Sbarro pizza restaurant, all of which also took place during the years of the Second Intifada. Barghouti, a relative of Fatah's Tanzim terrorist leader Marwan Barghouti, was also involved in the murderous attack on a hall in Rishon LeTzion.

According to the report, the Hamas delegation headed by Mahmoud Al-Zahar, and the head of the military wing, Ahmad Jabari, plans to submit the group's official response to the Egyptian and German mediators on Thursday. The senior Hamas source noted that the German mediator met with the Hamas delegation at the beginning of the week with additional new ideas from Israel that prompted the Hamas leadership in Gaza to go to Damascus for a decision.

Among these were the demand by Israel to change a number of names from the list of 450 prisoners serving long prison terms for brutal murders of Israelis, and whom Hamas has demanded be included on the list of those to be freed in exchange for Shalit.

The Hamas delegation informed the German mediator it was "absolutely opposed in principle, and totally resists any Israeli opposition to the release of any of the 450 prisoners on the list, and especially after the group recently agreed to a demand that some of the prisoners from Judea and Samaria would go instead to Gaza or to foreign Arab countries," said the senior Hamas source Wednesday evening, as he delivered the final negative response of the Hamas leadership.

A senior Hamas source in Egypt told the Al-Hayat newspaper that "none of the positions have changed, and Hamas did not make any new offers in the negotiations." He added that the talks appear to be continuing on a straight line: "It always seems as if the Israeli proposal is the maxiumum they can give, and we, for our part, try to check to see if it is really the maximum that can be reached."

Israel reportedly presented in the last round of talks a series of "creative" suggestions, as defined by Hamas, including:
*  substituting names of prisoners in the same category that satisfied Hamas with similar prisoners
*  accepting the principle of releasing "heavy prisoners" and shortening their sentences in order to release them within a number of years after the Shalit deal is complete
* exiling part of the prisoners abroad or to Gaza for a number of years .

A senior Hamas source said the terror group should consult with the organization's leadership in an Israeli prison before submitting a final answer on the proposal.