Shalit negotiations / Hamas turns down latest offer on swap
Hamas has rejected Israel's latest deal offer for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam reported yesterday.
According to the paper, the gap between the two sides has narrowed to only 15 prisoners out of the 450 Hamas is demanding in exchange for Shalit. Israel has agreed to free the other 435. But the paper quoted Hamas sources as saying that the 15 prisoners Israel is refusing to release represent "a red line, without which there will be no deal."
The 15 include senior Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, convicted of murdering five Israelis; Ahmed Sa'adat, secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who was convicted of ordering the murder of government minister Rehavam Ze'evi; as well as three women: Amana Muna, convicted of luring teenager Ofir Nahum to his death in Ramallah via the Internet; Ahlam Tamimi, who was involved in the suicide bombing at the Sbarro pizzeria; and Kahira Sa'adi, who also abetted a suicide bombing.
Israel is also refusing to release senior Hamas officials Abdullah Barghouti, Abbas Sayad and Ibrahim Hamad, who are considered the masterminds behind the worst suicide bombings of the second intifada; Jamal Abu al-Hija, who headed Hamas' network in the Jenin refugee camp; and Hassan Salameh, who was involved in several major suicide bombings in the 1990s.
The paper reported that the German mediator involved in the talks met in Gaza with senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar, but Zahar declined to comment to Haaretz on the matter. Other Hamas officials, however, told Haaretz that negotiations are likely to continue in the near future, and could be concluded very quickly - if Israel accedes to the organization's demands.
Barring any dramatic developments over the weekend, Shalit's relatives intend to continue their round of meetings with cabinet ministers next week, in an effort to persuade as many as possible to vote for the deal, if one is reached. The Shalits have been holding such meetings almost every day for the last two weeks, but have yet to meet with any Labor Party ministers. Activists working with the family denied that this was because Labor ministers are thought to support the deal already and said these ministers would be included in next week's meetings.
Gilad's father, Noam Shalit, met yesterday with Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi.