A senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip warned Israel that any attempts to rescue abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit would spur the Islamist group to kidnap more soldiers, the pan-Arab London-based newspaper Asharq al-Awsat is reporting in Wednesday editions.
"If Israel tries to rescue Gilad Shalit, we will kidnap more soldiers," Mahmoud Zahar told the newspaper. The Hamas official was reacting to reports that Israel was threatening to take "various active measures" should Hamas continue to delay talks over the captive soldier. Israeli officials sent this message to Hamas via an Egyptian mediator last week.
The Hamas official added that Israel has exhausted all military means at its disposal to win the captive's release with no results. Zahar added that Hamas remains adamant Israel pay the full price it is demanding in exchange for Shalit.
A special ministerial task force has completed drafting a list of 450 Palestinian prisoners whom Israel would be willing to release in exchange for Shalit.
The ministerial panel, headed by Vice Premier Haim Ramon, finished drafting its list on Sunday and submitted it to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Sometime in the next few days, Olmert will discuss it with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and if this troika approves the list, it will be sent to Egypt for transfer to Hamas as a formal Israeli offer.
Amos Gilad: Hamas 'like a cancer'Israel's point man in indirect, Egyptian-mediated talks with Hamas says the Islamic militant group is more powerful than the Western-backed Palestinian government and "is like a cancer."
Defense Ministry director-general Amos Gilad says talks with Hamas designed to secure the release of a captured Israeli soldier have gone better since a truce went into effect in June. But he adds that a deal is "not close."
Gilad says current peace talks between Israel and the moderate Palestinian forces in charge of the West Bank are not likely to bear fruit until those forces retake Gaza from Hamas. He says it's like negotiating with "half a body."
Shalit deal may shorten Abbas presidencyIsrael is expected to free the 40 Hamas Palestinian parliament members held in Israeli prisons, as part of a deal to release Shalit. However, if Israel takes this step before the end of 2009, it is expected to bring Mahmoud Abbas' term as Palestinian president to an early close in a legal sense, though not necessarily in practice.
The legislators' release means that Hamas will once again have a majority (74 out of 132) in the Palestinian Legislative Council.
The parliament is expected to convene after its Hamas-affiliated members are released, and decide not to extend Abbas' term beyond January. Nonetheless, Abbas is not expected to resign, although the Hamas position would seriously threaten his legitimacy.
Hamas is demanding the lawmakers' release as part of the first stage of a deal to release Shalit. Most of the 40 legislators were arrested after the June 25, 2006, cross-border raid near the Gaza Strip that resulted in Shalit's abduction, although some were elected while serving time in prison.
Israel is expected to allow the release of the legislators, since most were arrested because they are members of Hamas, and are not considered terrorists "with blood on their hands."
The previous Fatah-run parliament passed a law shortly before the 2006 elections won by Hamas stipulating that Abbas' term should run five years - until January 2010, when both parliamentary and presidential elections will be held - rather than four years. But Hamas and several experts in Palestinian law say that the Palestinian election law, which is a Basic Law in the Palestinian Authority, can be amended by a two-thirds majority, rendering the one-year extension unconstitutional.
Hamas says that Abbas' presidency should actually end this January, unless he wins a new presidential election.
If the PLC does decide that Abbas must end his term in January, the parliament will appoint PLC Speaker Aziz al-Dweik, who is currently in an Israeli prison, as acting president.
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