"The Israeli leadership has withdrawn its proposals and capitulated to the American administration's pressures so that the prisoner swap won't bolster Hamas and weaken the Palestinian negotiator (the Palestinian Authority)," Mashaal said. "I'm telling them today – we have certain demands in exchange for Gilad and as time passes we will no longer be satisfied with those demands. The demands will be higher, and so will the price."
Speaking at a student conference in Damascus, Mashaal said, "Israeli society knows the reason the deal was hindered and it protests against its miserable leadership which prevents the prisoner exchange swap from being carried out. Shalit will not be the only one and we shall continue capturing the enemy's soldiers and officers until our prisoners are released. We shall not free Shalit until Netanyahu surrenders to our just demands."
Israelis march for Shalit. Heading to Akko (Photo: Shai Vaaknin)
The Hamas official also linked the issue to the raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla. "Israel knows the extent of damage its image suffered following the massacre on the freedom flotilla and it wishes to gain international support using Shalit. Some of the region's leaders should know that the outraged world will not accept the fact that they continue to be Israel's friends. The countdown for Israel demise has begun."
Mashaal claimed that breaking the siege was at the top of the group's priorities and that this will be achieved using all means, including new flotillas.
In respect to the Silwan riots over house demolitions, the Hamas official said, "Jerusalem is in danger of being neglected by Palestinians and Arabs of formal ranks. We congratulate the Silwan residents who confronted enemy forces yesterday and the Jerusalem families who defended their national symbols."