Reproduction photo: Hagai Aharon
Gilad Shalit
Reproduction photo: Hagai Aharon

Hamas leader: We'll ask for more prisoners

Al-Zahar accuses Israel of reneging on elements of Shalit deal, threatens to return to 'square one' and demand more Palestinian prisoners in exchange for kidnapped soldier

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, blamed Israel of reneging on previously agreed upon clauses in the negotiation for the return of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and warned that continued back-pedaling could have dire consequences.


In this capacity, he threatened that his organization might cease the current negotiations altogether and "return to square one."


In an interview to the Palestinian Ramatan News Agency, he said that Israel is "withdrawing" from its previous positions.


"If Israel wants to start from scratch under new terms, no problem," he told the agency. "But our terms will also be different than before. Our demands will be much larger than before. If they want a deal, they need to meet our demands," he said.


The conditions of an agreement, according to al-Zahar, have already been agreed upon: The release of 450 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit, and the release of 550 more prisoners two months later.


"But now, they're talking about only releasing the 450 prisoners. In other words, they're going back on our agreement. In such a situation, we will also go back on our word and cancel all that has been determined. Instead, we'll begin anew, demanding greater numbers," he announced.


During the interview, al-Zahar also addressed the recent victory of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in the Kadima primaries on Wednesday, saying he saw no difference between her and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.


"Every leader in Israel, either male or female, is affected by the policy of the defense establishment. The traditional Zionist approach is no longer a vision of land from the Nile to the Euphrates, and even Olmert conceded that Israel can no longer exist on Palestinian land," he explained.


Al-Zahar also addressed the role of Egypt, which has played the role of mediator in the Shalit negotiations. He stated that the nation no longer insists on tying the issue of the Rafah crossing – on the Gaza-Egypt border – to the issue of Shalit's release.


He added that a Hamas delegation would visit Cairo in October, to discuss the internal crisis between Palestinian groups.


פרסום ראשון: 09.19.08, 23:24
 new comment
This will delete your current comment