Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is pushing Israel to release Fatah prisoners following the Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange deal that freed IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, citing a promise he said he received from former prime minister Ehud Olmert, TIME magazine reported on Thursday.
In an interview, Abbas told TIME that Olmert promised to release Fatah prisoners following any Shalit deal.
Olmert preceded Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, serving in the post from 2006 through 2009.
Abbas said that the matter of prisoners came up when Olmert on two occasions released several hundred prisoners as gestures ahead of peace talks. Abbas later asked Olmert for a larger release.
Abbas said that Olmert told him, "Now I cannot because we have a Shalit deal, but I promise you when we conclude Shalit and everything is O.K., I will give you, not the same number, not the same quality, more."
""But [Olmert] asked me, 'Please keep it secret, confidential between us because we don't want to affect the deal with Shalit.' I said, 'O.K., O.K., I will keep it.' Now the deal is over, and we will ask them to fulfill their promises."
Army Radio reported on Friday that sources close to Olmert confirmed Abbas' statements, saying that the plan had been to release 550 Fatah prisoners as part of a Shalit deal in order to bolster Abbas's position in the West Bank.
Shalit was captured by Gaza militants in a June 2006 cross-border raid. He was released earlier this week after Israel and Hamas reached a deal in which Israel agreed to free 1,027 Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners to get Shalit back.
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