"Israeli media reports suggesting that progress has been made in the Shalit deal are baseless," Hassan Yusuf, a senior Hamas official in the West Bank, said on Thursday.
Yusuf, who was quoted by the Islamist group's newspaper al-Risalah, said that negotiations meant to secure the release of the kidnapped IDF soldier were deadlocked.
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Meanwhile, Hamas operative Abdullah Barghouti, who is serving 67 life terms in Israel for terror offenses, claimed that senior defense establishment officials have been negotiating part of the deal with him – within prison walls.
Barghouti, whose statement in the matter was relayed by his attorney, added that Hamas will not relent on any of the 450 names included in their demands for a prisoner exchange deal.
Abdullah Barghouti (Photo: Hagai Aharon)
Hamas is willing to come up with "creative solutions" in order to advance the Shalit deal and ensure prisoners that Israel said it would not release – are included in the deal, he said.
According to Barghouti, one of Hamas' demands is that all of the prisoners slated to be included in the prisoner exchange would be moved to one holding facility for the duration of the negotiations.
As for reports suggesting that Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Mashaal had visited Cairo recently to negotiate Shalit's release, Barghouti said that Hamas' military wing alone possesses the power to bring the deal to fruition.
"When the Israeli government proves that it is serious, Hamas will negotiate on Shalit," he said. Israel's pressure in the case, he concluded, will not prevail.
Abdullah Barghouti is related Marwan Barghouti, Fatah's former secretary-general in the West Bank. Marwan Barghouti was convicted of five counts of murder and is serving five life sentences and an additional 40 years.
Abdullah Barghouti was implicated in terror acts which claimed 66 Israeli lives and left over 500 people injured.
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