Hamas sources continue to accuse Israel of torpedoing a prisoner exchange deal that would secure the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit. On Tuesday, Hamas deputy politburo chief Mousa Abu Marzouk said Israel's latest offer on a deal was a retreat from its prior stance.
"This is the Israelis' way, every time we got close to reaching an agreement – they withdrew in the last minute," Abu Marzouk told London-based al-Hayat newspaper.
The Hamas deputy hinted that a deal was far from being reached: "The German mediator is not the first mediator, and he won't be the last.
"We are sticking to our demands, and are working to achieve an honorable exchange deal that will free our heroic prisoners, who have paid a heavy price for the homeland. We will not give up on them, and this is the movement's commitment to them."
Abu Marzouk expressed hope that the German mediator's efforts would prove successful. "He has invested many efforts and achieved unprecedented progress, but it seems this is not enough to complete the deal, especially in light of Israel's most recent withdrawal from its position," he said.
Praising the German mediator's plans to return to Gaza to receive Hamas' response, Abu Marzouk said, "He was meant to arrive two days ago, but the weather conditions in German caused a delay in his flight."
In accordance with estimates in Israel, Hamas senior official Mahmoud al-Zahar announced last week that the organization's leadership has formed a list with several reservations regarding Israel's proposal for the implementation of the deal.
A Hamas source told Ynet that the main points of contention which delay progress pertain to Israel's refusal to release several "heavy" prisoners, as well as its demand to deport dozens of them to the Gaza Strip or overseas.
Al-Hayat reported over the weekend that the United States has put pressure on Israel to prevent to release of two prominent prisoners on Hamas' list: PFLP Secretary-General Ahmed Saadat who was convicted of the murder of Minister Rehavam Zeevi and former Fatah Secretary-General in the West Bank Marwan Barghouti. It was further reported that Washington opposes the release of Arab-Israeli prisoners and residents of east Jerusalem.