A senior Hamas official in Damascus provided Egypt over the weekend with the organization's "final" offer on a deal for the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the Hamas publication Al-Risala has reported.
Prior to issuing his organization's position, Moussa Abu-Marzouk, the deputy head of the Damascus-based political bureau of Hamas, met with a senior Hamas official who came from Gaza specifically to confer on the subject, the article said.
The visiting official from Gaza is thought to be Ahmed al-Ja'abari, the head of the Hamas military wing, whom a Hamas website Thursday reported went to Cairo for several days of talks on the Shalit case. Ja'abari went to Cairo with several other military wing members at the invitation of the Egyptian intelligence branch.
"We wish to stress that the Hamas leadership is in Damascus and the political bureau is carrying out its work as usual," a rather mundane statement issued by the Syrian-based bureau Friday said. The statement followed two days of consultations and reported disagreements between the movement's leadership in Gaza and elsewhere. The statement was directly aimed at Gaza-based Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar, who said comments by Damascus-based political bureau chief Khaled Meshal do not represent the organization's stance.
At the Cairo signing ceremony marking the reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority's Fatah faction last month, Meshal said more time should be given to negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel. In another sign of internal divisions within Hamas, Syrian media reports even stated that Hamas leadership has advised Swiss officials that Zahar has not sought and has not received permission to meet with Swiss diplomats.
Amos Gilad, the head of the diplomatic security bureau of the Israeli Defense Ministry, was in Egypt last week, but currently, no breakthrough on the Shalit case seems imminent, a situation confirmed Thursday by Hamas leader Izzat Rishek.
Shalit's family and the organization campaigning for his release plan to mark the fifth anniversary of his capture at the end of the month. The soldier's father, Noam, said he has received no official information indicating that there has been new progress in the case.
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