Izzat al-Rashek, a member of Hamas' political bureau, said Friday that his organization would have an answer for Israel's latest offer on a prisoner swap deal within "two, three days at the most".
Rashek told Al-Jazeera that a Hamas delegation from Gaza, headed by Mahmoud a-Zahar, was making its way to Damascus to discuss Israel's latest offer for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit with group officials there.
He confirmed that Hamas had received Israel's most recent proposal Wednesday through the German mediator in the deal, but refused to provide further details.
According to reports by Arab press agencies, Hamas members in Gaza are at odds with colleagues in Damascus over the deal. London-based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that Hamas in Gaza was pushing for acceptance of Israel's offer, while officials in Damascus were insisting on the release of prisoners Israel has refused to give up.
The report cites sources close to the deal as saying that Israel has agreed to release 450 prisoners, but refused to release nine on Hamas' list. Among these are Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti and the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmed Saadat. Israel is also demanding the deportation of 120 prisoners serving a life sentence.
A source added that "Hamas is determined to release all the prisoners on the list." The movement will accept the deportation principle, but demands that the prisoner will be the one to choose the destination and that all prisoners will not be deported to one European countries where they will all be supervised, as demanded by Israel.
According to the sources, Israel's stand which negates the release of the nine prisoners, and Hamas' stand which insists on the release of all prisoners, may delay the deal by several months.
"If Hamas accepts the Israeli offer, the completion of the deal will be announced in Cairo. The first stage of the deal – the release of 450 prisoners – will be implemented 24 hours later. After they are transferred to the German mediator, whether in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, Shalit will be handed over to the Egyptians," one of the sources said.