Senior Fatah officials expressed outrage over the outline of the prisoner exchange deal brokered between Israel and Hamas to secure the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, telling Ynet Saturday that it "makes nor sense."
Shalit is set to be released on Tuesday in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Earlier, the exchange's prospects were overshadowed by reports that pressure from the Israeli Arab public over the exclusion of three female prisoners from the swap might cause Hamas to revise its demands at the last minute – a move which could jeopardize the entire deal.
- Israeli officials: Outline of Shalit deal stands
Jerusalem sources, however, dismissed the reports, saying the exchange will take place as plan and that the Shalit deal "stands as-is."
Qadura Fares, chairman of the Palestinian Prisoners Club in the West Bank said that the confusion professed by Hamas over the number of female prisoners was strange: "One would think that if it took them five years to negotiate a deal than they would know every detail. I'm very surprised that they don't know the exact number of female prisoners."
Celebrating the deal in Gaza (Photo: Reuters)
Deputy Palestinian Prisoners Minister Ziad Abu Ain also wondered about Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Mashaal's faux pas regarding the number of Palestinian women jailed in Israel. "He said that there were 27, when there are 33 of them."
Hamas claimed that the female prisoners in question were indivertibly excluded from the list. Hamas Politburo member Izzat al-Rishq appealed to Egypt, which brokered the deal, to correct the matter. According to Palestinian sources, however, Cairo rejected the demand, saying that for the time being the signed agreement must be upheld as-is.
- For the full prisoners list by the IPS click here
Fares also criticized Hamas for agreeing to the expulsion of dozens of prisoners: "Expulsion is a form of punishment and they are trying to 'sell' expulsion as an achievement. I'm not buying it."
He also blasted Hamas for agreeing to include inmates who have only a short time left on their sentence in the swap, at the expense of prisoners who have already served over 20 years of life sentences.
Abu Ain said that while he supported the release of any Palestinian prisoner, the disapproved of the fact that the deal's outline was not brought before the prisoners' movement for approval.
The feeling, he said, was echoed by the families of many Palestinian prisoners, who fail to understand why their sons were excluded from the list. "This is Hamas' responsibility," he said.
Gaza's rulers dismissed the criticism: Hamas official Ahmad Bahr urged the Palestinian Authority to fire Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki following his outspoken objection to the prisoner exchange deal, which he said "threatened the efforts" for Palestinian unity.
Meanwhile, Hamas officials said that the group will not relent on its demand to release all female prisoners.
Hamas spokesperson Riyad al-Ashqa told the Kul Alarab website that the number of female prisoners included in the list – 27 – was "either an Egyptian mistake or an Israel one," adding that "the deal was that all the (female) prisoners will be released. If that term is not met we will suspend the deal," he said.
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