'Major crisis in Israel.' Al-Zahar
Photo: AP

Hamas not ruling out expulsion of 'heavyweight' prisoners

Mahmoud al-Zahar says Islamist group considering deportation of four arch-terrorists to Syria should they be released by Israel in deal for Shalit, but says decision will be implemented 'only with prisoners' consent'

Hamas is not ruling out the possibility that some so-called "heavyweight" Palestinian prisoners will be expelled to Syria should they be released by Israel in the framework of a possible exchange deal for captive soldier Gilad Shalit.


Senior Hamas leader in Gaza Mahmoud al-Zahar told the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar that the Islamist group was "considering the issue of expelling the prisoners from the West Bank.


"Any such decision will be implemented with the prisoners' consent," he said in the interview, published Saturday.


On Monday the leading pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat reported that Israel has accepted Hamas' demand to free eight "heavyweight" prisoners, but insists that four of them be deported to Syria.


The four prisoners slated for expulsion are: Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Secretary-General Ahmad Saadat; Ibrahim Hamed, Hamas' military commander in the West Bank; bomb-maker Abdullah Barghouti and Abbas el-Sayed, who orchestrated the terror attack on Netanya's Park Hotel in 2002.


Al-Zahar said Israel has issued fresh demands in the ongoing Egyptian-mediated ceasefire negotiations, including tying the truce to a prisoner exchange deal that would see Shalit returned to Israel.


"The Israelis are in the midst of a major crisis regarding the establishment of the new coalition," he told Al-Akhbar. "In any case, we are not desperate to reach a ceasefire agreement, and the prisoner swap has its own special price tag."


Meanwhile, senior Popular Resistance Committees spokesman Abu Abir said Shalit had been injured during the IDF's recent offensive in Gaza. However, sources within Hamas said Abir was not privy to any information regarding the soldier's condition.


Shalit was captured by Palestinian terrorists during a cross-border raid on an IDF base near Gaza on June 25, 2006.


פרסום ראשון: 02.21.09, 14:31
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