Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
confirmed on Thursday that Israel has relayed to Egypt the names of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who were not on Hamas' original list of prisoners it demands in exchange for captive soldier Gilad Shalit.
The statement came a day after the cabinet approved
the principle that a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas
would take place before another truce is declared and before the Gaza Strip crossings are reopened.
The PM told Ynet that some headway has been made in the prisoner swap negotiations in light of the new list.
Yedioth Ahronoth reported Thursday that the list includes hundreds of Palestinian prisoners "with blood on their hands" who are serving lengthy sentences for orchestrating and carrying out terror attacks.
"Anyone who thinks we'll reopen the crossings before the Shalit issue is resolved is mistaken," Olmert said. "It cannot be that after we crushed Hamas (in the war in Gaza),
we will now do exactly what they expected us to do before the fighting erupted – meaning opening the crossings."
Referring to the harsh criticism cast by senior security officials, who said cabinet's decision to tie the ceasefire to a prisoner exchange deal may jeopardize the understandings reached between Egypt
and Hamas, Olmert said "all those who are spreading rumors that our relations with Egypt may suffer, don’t know what they are talking about.
"I am in daily contact with Egypt; they are fully-aware of what we are doing and saying," he said.
The new list of prisoners slated for release had been drafted by the IDF and the Shin Bet over the past few months at Olmert's request.
Past agreements call for an initial release of 450 prisoners in return for Shalit, followed by the release of another 550 prisoners as a goodwill gesture to Egypt and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
In the final stage of the prisoner exchange deal, women, minors and Hamas parliamentarians will also be freed by Israel.