Rumors on Shalit: Lots of Smoke but No Fire

Shalit is already in Egypt and a deal for his release is underway, a Kuwaiti newspaper says, but the reliability of the report is questionable.

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Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, | updated: 10:43

Convicted terrorist Barghouti
Convicted terrorist Barghouti
Israel news photo

The Hamas rumor mill is spinning almost without control, with one Arab newspaper reporting that kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit is in Egypt and another declaring that convicted arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti refuses to be freed if Israel demands he be deported to an Arab country.

The al-Jarid newspaper of Kuwait maintained that Shalit, kidnapped to Hamas-run Gaza more than three years ago, was taken in secret to Egypt several days ago. Circumstantial evidence for the report is that there has been an unusual increase in Egyptian security personnel around Rafiah, which is located on both sides of the Egyptian-Gaza border.

Israel and Hamas are tight-lipped about negotiations for Shalit’s release and about the rumors, in accordance with a gag order agreement with a German mediator. Israel’s High Court has rejected legal petitions that the military censor’s gag order is not justified as being necessary for national security.

As in previous “almost-deals” for the return of Shalit, Hamas reports have verged from the deal being a near-certainty to its being in doubt. Arab media have reported that Hamas is likely to add more conditions after Israel’s agreement on principle to release hundreds of terrorists, including those who have murdered Israelis or helped arrange suicide bombings,

Marwan Barghouti, serving five life terms in prison for his involvement in murderous attacks, is now rumored to be on the list of terrorists Hamas wants freed, although he is not officially a member of the Hamas terrorist organization. He recently said from his jail cell that he sees no difference between Hamas and its rival Fatah.

A London-based Arabic-language newspaper reported that Israel may agree to release him but only on condition that he be deported to an Arab country, a provision the newspaper said he has rejected. Cabinet ministers are divided on whether he should be freed, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, one of the most vocal opponents.

Barghouti is considered the most popular personality in the PA-controlled areas.

The Kuwaiti newspaper also said the deal is now “underway,” a virtual impossibility because by law the government must give at least 48 hours notice to the public on which terrorists are to be freed.

In a ruling on an appeal against from a “goodwill” release of terrorists last year, the High Court warned the government that it may not be legally acceptable to put the wheels in motion for freeing terrorists and then give the public only 48 hours to appeal on what may be a fait accompli.

Another intimation that the deal is not imminent is President Shimon Peres’s statement earlier this week that internal disputes in Hamas are holding up progress in reaching an agreement for the return of Shalit.

Any release of terrorists who have not completed their prison sentence is dependent on Peres's signature. The president indicated to 10th grade students this week that he would agree to sign despite "the high and painful price the government must pay.”

Nearly 180 Israelis have been murdered by terrorists released by the government in the past, most of them as part of ”goodwill measures” to bolster the standing of Palestinian Authority PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.