Zuhair Al-Qaisi, leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, the organization that captured Gilad Shalit, told the newspaper Al-Hayat that from the day Shalit was taken prisoner, government officials from various Arab countries passed on messages from Israel, saying that serious moves would not be made against them if they immediately released Shalit.
"We refused to respond to these threats," said Al-Qaisi.
Al-Qaisi told Al-Hayat that Imad Hamad, who was the first person to actually abduct Shalit, and who Israel assassinated on August 18, together with the group's previous leader Kamal A-Nirev, interrogated Shalit after capturing him. 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," said Al-Qaisi.
Al-Qaisi also divulged that Shalit was handed over to Hamas after a deal was struck with the leaders of the Popular Committees, because Hamas "had the capabilities and the locations which allowed them to keep the prisoner in a safe secret place," he said.
"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. He was lightly injured in the course of his capture, and he received the necessary medical care and completely healed," said Al-Qaisi.
The Popular Resistance Committees' leader also said that the negotiations between Hamas and Israel began half a year after Shalit's capture and required great discretion in order to safeguard the place where Shalit was being held.
Al-Qaisi said that the talks with German negotiator Gerhard Conrad became intensive between March 10 – 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.
Al-Qaisi praised Egypt's role in sealing the deal, and claimed that the Hamas negotiating team conferred with the Popular Resistance Committees often. He said that the person that steered the planning of the attack on and capture of Shalit was the former leader of the group, Jamal Abu Samhadana, who was killed on June 9, 2006, two weeks before Shalit's capture.
The head of Hamas's military wing Ahmed al-Ja'abri was also interviewed by the paper and said that the day the prisoner exchange was finalized was "the happiest day of his life".
Al-Ja'abari said that all of Hamas' demands, except for the release of high-profile prisoners, were met by Israel. There were originally 70 of these, and in the end only half of them were released. "We realized that Israel completely refuses to release them," al-Ja'abari said.
Al-Ja'abari added that 41 prisoners were deported, most of them being affiliated with Hamas, and most of these were of the group that Israel refused to release. Al-Ja'abai said that those deportees collectively killed 569 Israelis, and therefore deportation was the only possible way to secure their release.
He emphasized that he does not consider sending a West Bank or East Jerusalem Palestinian to Gaza as deportation.
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