Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Thursday that kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit would be released soon.
"The issue of releasing Palestinian prisoners will be solved soon and will bring with it the release of the Israeli soldier," he said. “They will be released simultaneously to the release of the Israeli soldier.
Noam Shalit, father of the kidnapped Israeli soldier, commented on Haniyeh's remark by saying that ‘It’s best not to let expectations get too high following such statements.’
"Haniyeh has already made similar statements in the past, and nothing came out of them. After all, he is not the one to decide, he does not hold the key, but Hamas-Damascus does. It is clear to me that if it were up to him, he would have already completed the negotiations," said Noam Shalit.
Haniyeh called to “Continue pressuring Israel to resolve the matter as soon as possible and bring about the release of the prisoners and the soldier.
“The negotiation on the soldier’s release is at a stalemate due to the dispute over the number of Palestinian prisoners Israel is willing to release in exchange for the soldier,” he added.
Haniyeh is expected to meet with Saudi officials over the weekend to update them on the internal developments in the Palestinian Authority.
Surprising invitationThe Palestinian PM spoke at the El-Arish Airport in Sinai, where he is set to board a plane with Palestinian
Prior to his departure Haniyeh spoke with President Mahmoud Abbas at the Rafah Crossing for the first time since the eruption of the Hamas-Fatah infighting, which followed Abbas’ call for early elections.
PA officials expressed hope that the meeting between Abbas and Haniyeh would pave the way for the renewal of the negotiations on the establishment of a unity government; it is expected that the two will announce the resumption of talks on the matter during their meeting in Jordan, which is scheduled for next week.
Haniyeh was invited to Amman by King Abdullah, a move that surprised many in light of the tension that has existed between the Hashemite Kingdom and Hamas since the Palestinian group rose to power.
Jordan accuses Hamas of meddling in its political affairs and attempting to smuggle weapons into its territory.
During their meeting in Jerusalem last Saturday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas agreed on the establishment of a joint committee that will be in charge of the Palestinian prisoners issue.
Olmert said that while he is aware of the Palestinians sensitivity on this matter, prisoners will be released only after Shalit is set free. Howerver, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said a prisoner exchange deal was not discussed during the meeting so as not to hinder Egyptian meda9ition efforts.
The Palestinians are looking to include the release of the top legislators and ministers in any future deal.
Ahiya Raved contributed to the report