Hamas strongman Mahmoud al-Zahar on Tuesday expressed his willingness to finalize a prisoner exchange agreement with Israel. On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that the German-mediated talks aimed at securing the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit have been renewed.
"It's clear that the occupation government, according to its leaders, is interested in finalizing the negotiations with Hamas in the prisoner exchange deal. We are ready for that," Zahar told Palestinian news agency Safa.
He noted that he and his people demand a return to the understandings reached in the previous round of talks, about a year ago. "We reject the idea that the negotiations will end as they did last time, in other words – that understandings reached will be canceled by the narrow Israeli cabinet."
Meanwhile, Saudi newspaper al-Madina reported Tuesday that Netanyahu had expressed his willingness to release former Fatah leader in the West Bank Marwan Barghouti in exchange for Shalit. According to the report, Netanyahu relayed the message to Hamas through the German mediator.
Jerusalem-based newspaper al-Manar reported Monday that the German mediator was interested in continuing his efforts to reach a deal by the end of the year and had expressed his optimism, saying there were "encouraging signs from Hamas."
Also Tuesday, Hamas said reconciliation talks with its rival faction Fatah have been postponed, without giving a reason for the postponement. The group said in a statement that officials from President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah had said they would not attend talks slated for Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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