Gilad Shalit was not tortured during his five years in captivity, Zuhair al-Qaisi, leader of the Palestinians' Popular Resistance Committees, told the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat.
Qaisis said that from the day the soldier was taken prisoner, officials from Arab countries passed on messages from Israel saying that no serious action would be taken if the committees immediately released Shalit. "We refused to respond to these threats," Qaisi said.
He told the paper that Imad Hamad, the first person to take part in Shalit's abduction and whom Israel killed on August 18 along with a previous leader of the group, interrogated Shalit after the operation. Hamad asked Shalit his name, citizenship, religion and army assignment on the Gaza border.
"Shalit was very suspicious, but he responded clearly to the questions during the first hours that he was held by the military arm of the Popular Committees," Qaisi said.
He added that Shalit was handed over to Hamas after a deal with the Popular Resistance Committees because Hamas "had the capabilities and the locations that allowed them to keep the prisoner in a safe secret place."
"He had access to radio and television. We took care of him, his physical and mental health. He was not given over to any emotional or physical torture," Qaisi said. He said Shalit was lightly injured during the attack on his tank, "and he received the necessary medical care and completely healed."
Qaisi added that negotiations between Hamas and Israel began six months after Shalit's abduction; great pains were taken to keep secret the hiding place's location.
Qaisi said the talks with German negotiator Gerhard Conrad became intensive between March 10 and 19, but that Conrad's only accomplishment was the release of 20 female Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a video of Shalit in October 2009.
Qaisi praised Egypt's role in sealing the deal and said the Hamas negotiating team conferred with the Popular Resistance Committees often. He said the man who led the planning of the attack was the group's former leader, Jamal Abu Samhadana, who was killed on June 9, 2006, two weeks before Shalit's abduction.
The head of Hamas' military wing, Ahmed Ja'abari, told the paper that the day the prisoner exchange was finalized was the happiest day of his life. He said that all of Hamas' demands, except for the release of certain high-profile prisoners, were met by Israel. There were 70 such prisoners, and only half were released.
"We realized that Israel completely refused to release them," Ja'abari said. He added that 41 prisoners were deported, most of them Hamas-affiliated. Ja'abari said that those prisoners had killed 569 Israelis, so exile was the only way to secure their release. He said he did not consider the sending of a West Bank or East Jerusalem Palestinian to Gaza as a deportation.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas official, said the visit by a Hamas delegation to Jordan is not linked to the completion of the Shalit deal or to the change in government in the kingdom. The delegation is there to improve ties between Hamas and Jordan, Abu Marzouk said.
But no dialogue is underway with Israel, and such a dialogue is unrealistic in light of Israel's agenda, he said, adding that Israel remains the enemy and resistance is the only way to deal with it.
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