Prisoner exchange deal closer than ever, Hamas says
Group’s leader in north Gaza says deal in which Palestinian prisoners will be released from Israeli jails in exchange for kidnapped soldier Shalit ‘a few steps away, maybe even less’; adds: This is another victory for the Palestinian people, after which more victories for the al-Aqsa mosque will come
“A prisoner exchange deal is closer than ever, and we can say that our prisoners will be released (from Israeli jails) soon,” a senior Hamas official said Friday during a rally held in support of the Palestinian unity agreement.
In the framework of the deal Israel will release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, said Fathi Hamed, Hamas’ leader in north Gaza.
“A prisoner exchange deal with the occupation is a few steps away, maybe even less. We can now tell the Palestinian prisoners that they will be released soon. This is another victory for the Palestinian people, after which more victories for the al-Aqsa mosque will come,” he said, referring to the controversy over Israeli excavations at the Mugrabi Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Gilad's father Noam Shalit said after meeting with Jewish leaders in the United States on Friday, “Eight months have passed since our son was kidnapped to Gaza; we continue to call on the prime minister and the other leaders to bring an end to our and the rest of the families’ nightmare; the results up until now have been insignificant.
“Our sons were sent to battle by the Israeli government, and it is the government that must bring them back,” he said.
'Renounce violence, recognize Israel'
Fatah and Hamas said a unity government would be established in the coming days; Hamas’ exiled leader Khaled Mashaal said that while the group’s recognition of Israel was not discussed in Mecca, it would respect past agreements signed with Israel.
Israeli officials in Jerusalem on Friday snubbed the Palestinian unity government deal, saying it failed to meet the preconditions set by the Quartet.
The officials stressed, however, that they also did not reject the Palestinian agreement outright.
On Saturday the Quartet, which consists of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States, repeated its demand that any Palestinian government renounce violence, recognize Israel and respect peace deals in order to receive Western aid.
Reuters contributed to the report