After a delay of several days, the German mediator in talks towards a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas has arrived in Gaza through Rafah crossing, in order to receive Hamas' position on the Shalit deal.
As reported in recent days, the movement is expected to present its reservations regarding the Israeli offer, but is unlikely to shut the door on the continuation of talks.
The mediator, Gerhard Conrad, is scheduled to meet with Hamas heads Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar and Dr. Khalil al-Haya.
After intensive negotiations, the mediator retuned to Germany to celebrate Christmas and the civil new year. His return to the Middle East was delayed due to bad weather in Germany. Meanwhile, Hamas heads formed their position on the deal, and consultations were held between Hamas heads in Damascus and Gaza.
Palestinian sources said that Hamas plans to stress to the mediator that it does not accept Israel's stance: "The Hamas delegation will clarify that it rejects the Israeli response, but will also stress that, with all its reservations regarding the Israeli document, it is still willing to keep negotiations going towards solving the issue."
The Hamas movement understands that any upcoming negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, brokered by Egypt and the United States, may impede any breakthrough in talks for the release of captive solider Gilad Shalit.
Hamas sources also believe that efforts may come to a halt in the near future as both parties remain stuck on their demands.
Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal in recent days has criticized Israel and said the Israelis have retreated from previous understandings reached in Shalit talks.
Mashaal's deputy, Mousa Abu Marzouk made similar comments Tuesday morning. Al-Hayat newspaper quoted Abu Marzouk as saying that Israel's most recent offer constitutes a withdrawal from its previous stance. "This is the Israelis' way, every time we got close to reaching an agreement – they withdrew at the last minute."
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.
Gilad Shalit was kidnapped into the Gaza Strip 1,290 days ago