Israel refused to include the release of four top security prisoners in the deal to free Gilad Shalit at
the last moment, sources close to Hamas
told the Palestinian news agency Maan on Wednesday night.
The sources said that early in the negotiations Israel
agreed to release the terrorists – including Marwan Barghouti,
who is serving five life sentences for his role in the murders of Israelis during the al-Aqsa intifada
– but decided against the measure "moments" before the prisoner swap deal was signed.
"Two months ago Israel was willing to release Barghouti and other officials," the sources, who were involved in the negotiations, were quoted as saying.
The sources noted that Israel refused to free Barghouti and Ahmed Saadat, who headed the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and was responsible for the assassination of Israeli minister Rehavam Ze'evi, in order to "avoid granting Hamas a victory – freeing two prominent Fatah
and Popular Front figures."
Some 1,027 Palestinian prisoners are to be released as part of the deal to bring the captive IDF soldier home.
Early reports claimed that some top Palestinian prisoners, including Abdullah Barghouti, who is serving out 67 consecutive life terms for building the bombs that murdered 66 people, and Ibrahim Hamed, who was involved in terrorist attacks that killed 82 Israelis. Both Israel and Hamas denied their inclusion in the deal.
The sources claimed that they consider the deal a success, because Israel initially refused to negotiate the release of Arab Israeli and Palestinian prisoners, but eventually agreed to do so.