Hamas is "willing to continue talks with our mediating brothers in Egypt in order to try and bring to a deal to completion as quickly as possible, so as to release our brothers from prison," said the group's deputy politburo chief Moussa Abu Marzouk about negotiations surrounding the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.
In an interview to the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat, Abu Marzouk said "we are not here on a trip just to leave our brothers in prison, where some of them have been for 25 and 32 years."
"I don't want to say there has been no progress recently, thanks to Egyptian mediation," he added. "There was real progress although it was insufficient to result in a signed deal."
Abu Marzouk slammed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for publicizing the names of the prisoners Hamas requested be released as part of a prisoner exchange deal. "This publication shows nothing more than his inability to bring a deal to a close," he said.
"I am certain that the number of prisoners to be released – 450 – was agreed upon a year and a half ago via Egypt. I am certain that Olmert needed to pay this price in full for a deal and not run away using cheap propaganda," he explained.
Earlier Saturday, the London-based al-Hayat newspaper quoted an Egyptian source as blaming glitches in the completion of a deal on Israel's newly toughened stance.
And a day earlier, Hamas's Damascus-based politiburo chief Khaled Mashaal threatened against Israeli reticence, saying in an interview to the Sydney Morning Herald that such behavior would encourage Hamas to carry out more kidnappings.