Report: Hamas agrees to deport 123 prisoners in Shalit deal
Hamas yet to formally respond to Israeli swap offer, but Lebanese daily quotes Palestinian sources as saying prominent prisoners have given their consent to Jerusalem's demand to deport 97 of them to Gaza, 20 to Qatar and the rest to Europe
As part of the negotiations on a prisoner exchange with Israel, Hamas has agreed to the deportation of 123 Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank to a number of destinations, Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal quoted Palestinian sources as saying Wednesday.
According to the report, the Palestinian prisoners slated for deportation have given their consent to the lsraeli demand.
A source in the Prime Minister's Office said in response to the report that "according to our familiarity with the decision making process in Hamas, the report that they are ready for a deportation cannot be true."
If carried out, the deal would see hundreds of Palestinian prisoners released by Israel in exchange for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped into Gaza on June 25, 2006.
The Palestinian sources said Israel is demanding to deport 97 of the prisoners to the Gaza Strip, more than 20 others to Qatar and the rest to a number of European countries that have expressed a willingness to receive them.
The sources said Israel's refusal to release nine prominent Palestinian prisoners, including former Fatah Secretary-General in the West Bank Marwan Barghouti and Popular Front Secretary-General Ahmad Saadat, remains an obstacle to the deal's completion.
Last week the London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper quoted a Palestinian source as saying, "The prominentHamas prisoners jailed in Israel, with Abbas al-Sayyad, Ibrahim Hamed, Abdel Nasser Issa, and Abdallah Barghouti figuring most notably amongst them, believe that this deal is their only hope for release and that leaving their names out will devalue it."
A delegation of senior Hamas figures in Gaza is expected to travel to Damascus on Thursday for meetings with the Islamist group's exiled leadership, during which the group will apparently formulate a final response to the Israeli offer.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report