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Olmert disappointed by Hamas demands
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Gilad Shalit's parents
Photo: AFP
Photo: Noam Rotem
Gilad Shalit
Photo: Noam Rotem
Olmert: Hamas demands disproportionate
Palestinian media reports over 1,000 prisoners to be released; Jerusalem sources say numbers exaggerated. PM meets with his representative on prisoner exchange deal for Shalit, agree that such number will not be released

A meeting Monday morning between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Deputy Shin Bet Chief Ofer Dekel, Olmert's representative in the negotiation regarding a prisoner exchange deal for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, led to disappointment of Israeli expectations.

 

During the meeting, it was revealed that negotiations regarding Shalit's release are not progressing, pursuant to what is being referred to as disproportionate demands by Hamas.

 

At the conclusion of the meeting, it was determined that Israel does not intend to release the number of Palestinian prisoners reported by the Arab media.

 

In recent days, there were many optimistic reports, primarily in Palestinian news sources, of advancements in the negotiation process surrounding Shilat and of an anticipated conclusion to the affair during a Thursday summit with the PM and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

 

The reports contained quotes by Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh expressing optimism regarding Shalit's release in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

 

Various reports claimed that some 1,000 or 1,500 Palestinian prisoners would be released. Political sources in Jerusalem and in Olmert's office in particular said they are unfamiliar with such developments.

 

At this point, the Egyptians, led by head of intelligence Omer Suleiman, will continue to try and find a compromise at the upcoming Thursday meeting. Concurrently, Hamas leaders are in Saudi Arabia, to address the same issue.

 

Arab media reports

The London-based A-Shraq al Awsat newspaper reported that the three Palestinian organizations holding Shalit received details of Israel's current compromise offer from the Egyptians.

 

According to the report, Suleiman passed the information on to Haniyeh and Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal when he met with the two during holiday rituals in Mecca.

 

Sources in the report said that the Egyptians are pushing to receive Hamas' response to the offer prior to the Thursday summit where Olmert will meet Mubarak.

 

According to the A-Shraq al Awsat report, the Israeli offer is based on three stages. Stage one requires Shalit's captors to provide a clear sign of life, including a videotape of Shalit saying certain phrases required by Israel, in order to ensure that the tape is up-to-date.

 

In exchange, Israel will release a number of women and underage prisoners.

 

In the second stage, said the report, Shalit will be transferred to an Egyptian delegation, who will transfer him to Cairo and, from there, to Tel Aviv. Simultaneously, 450 prisoners will be released from among a list provided by the three organizations holding Shait.

 

In the third stage, which will take place in two month, Israeli will release additional prisoners. According to the report, Israel will decide on the number and affiliation of these prisoners.

 

Nonetheless, Palestinian sources refuted claims that the three kidnapping organizations have agreed to this deal. This is because the current Palestinian stance demands that Shalit should stay in Egypt until Israel releases the requested prisoners, some 1,500 in number.

 

The Saudi al-Watan newspaper reported Monday morning that Israel will release a large number of Palestinian prisoners who have been in Israeli prisons for long periods of time, in addition to political leaders being held in Israeli prisons.

 

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