Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar
Photo: AP
Gilad Shalit, captive since 2006

Al-Zahar: Deal matter of weeks

Hamas official tells German Der Spiegel Palestinians want to wrap up prisoner exchange deal as soon as possible, saying closing of deal that would secure release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit is a matter of months at most

Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar said that the closing of the prisoner swap deal in which abducted soldier Gilad Shalit will be released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners is a matter of weeks or months at most.


Al-Zahar, who spoke during an interview with Der Spiegel magazine to be published in full on Monday, added that they would like to wrap up negotiations as soon as possible.


The Hamas official praised the German mediator on his work in advancing talks between Israel and the Palestinians – the same mediator who brought about the "videotape deal" that was realized on Friday, saying the deal is initial proof that the German mediation can lead to success.


He went on to say that since the German mediator got involved, talks progressed in a very professional manner.


When asked about the core of the dispute between his organization and Israel in talks, he said that in such difficult negotiations, neither side can dictate conditions, not Israel, and not Hamas.


This comes following a more firm stance presented earlier by both a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees and the Hamas member in charge of the Shalit portfolio.


Both had said that in order for the deal to be closed, Israel would have to release the 450 "heavy" prisoners, including many murderers, demanded in exchange for Shalit.


Osama al-Muzaini, a senior Hamas figure who is familiar with the negotiations, said at a welcoming ceremony for one of the female prisoners released by Israel on Friday, "The Palestinian organizations have not budged from their demands regarding the identity and amount of the Palestinian prisoners (they want released as part of a deal with Israel)."


Spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, Abu Mujahid, also said that any deal would require Israel to release 450 "heavy" prisoners, most of whom were involved in major attacks that took the lives of Israeli soldiers and civilians.


One more female Palestinian prisoner is slated to be released into the Gaza Strip on Sunday, in accordance with Hamas' demands that another prisoner be released.


פרסום ראשון: 10.03.09, 18:45
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