Israel lowering expectations? Suleiman
Hamas' delegation to Cairo is under the impression that Israel has reneged on all of the understandings reached over the past few months regarding a prisoner exchange deal that will include the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, according to the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.
Prisoner Exchange Talks
Palestinian sources say Egyptian mediator asked Islamist group reps to keep prisoner exchange talks confidential
The newspaper quoted a Palestinian source as saying Monday that Egyptian mediator Omar Suleiman informed Hamas representatives last week that Israel is refusing to release prisoners who were sentenced to lengthy prison terms and insists on not freeing those convicted of murdering soldiers or settlers.
According to the report, Israel and Hamas previously had agreed that during the first stage of the prisoner swap 350 Palestinian prisoners will be released in exchange for Shalit's transfer to Egyptian custody. In the second phase an additional 100 prisoners will be freed upon the soldier's arrival in Israel, and 500 more Palestinians will be returned two months after Shalit's release.
The Palestinian source said Israel has also backed down from its agreement to release all of the female Palestinian prisoners and is particularly against freeing Amna Muna, who was charged and convicted for her involvement in the murder of 16-year-old Ofir Nahum in January 2001.
The source was quoted by Al-Awsat as saying that Hamas and Egypt fear Israel toughened its stance in order to "lower Hamas' expectations" ahead of the expected negotiations in Cairo. However, the source said, Hamas and Egypt believe Israel will eventfully agree to release all of the prisoners the Islamist group is demanding in exchange for Shalit.
Last week a Palestinian source told the newspaper that the expected talks between the factions holding Shalit captive and Israeli officials "will be held behind closed doors so the sides can finally resolve the issue."
Shalit was captured during a cross border raid on an IDF base near Gaza on June 25, 2006.