Israel has agreed to release 71 Palestinian prisoners "with blood on their hands" as part of a deal for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, a senior Hamas source told Ynet on Sunday.
These prisoners were included on the list of 300 Palestinian murderers Hamas has demanded that Israel release in the framework of a future prisoner exchange deal.
A senior official in Jerusalem said Israel is not giving out details on the ongoing negotiations, which are being conducted with Egyptian mediation.
According to the Hamas, Shalit was mentioned by the Israeli government during the talks on a possible ceasefire with Palestinian factions in Gaza only to "appease the Israeli public".
"The Israelis are not really working to release him and are hoping that Hamas and the organizations that abducted him will give in and accept their terms, but this will not happen," the source said. "If the current situation persists, Shalit will be our guest for many years to come."
Hamas is demanding that during the initial phase of the deal Israel release 450 prisoners, including those with "blood on their hands", simultaneous to the transfer of Shalit to Egyptian custody.
Positive signals from Egypt
Some 350 additional Palestinian prisoners, including women and children, are also expected to be freed by Israel in the framework of the exchange deal.
According to the formulated agreement, Israel will release between 200 and 500 more prisoners upon Shalit's arrival in Egypt.
Sources in Hamas and officials familiar with the negotiations reiterated that Shalit's release will not be linked to any ceasefire agreement with Israel. Members of the Islamist group said they rejected Israel's offer to release hundreds of Gaza residents as part of a deal for the Israeli soldier's return, calling it an attempt to intensify the rift between Gaza and the West Bank and brand Hamas a local rather than a national Palestinian force.
A Hamas delegation is expected to head to Cairo for another round of negotiations on a truce with Israel. A source within the Islamist group said that despite positive signals from Egypt, "the corruption affairs in Israel and the possibility of early elections may lead the area toward escalation despite talks of a ceasefire".
Shalit was captured on June 25, 2006 by Palestinian gunmen who raided an army post near the Kerem Shalom border crossing.