The Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat reported yesterday that the German mediator in the Shalit deal, Gerhard Conrad, met last month in an Israeli prison with one of the leaders of Hamas in the West Bank, Sheikh Hassan Yousuf.
A senior Hamas figure, who asked to remain anonymous, told the newspaper about the meeting, explaining that the imprisoned leadership of the organization has the same amount of influence as the group's leadership domestically and abroad. "Everyone is united over the stance of the movement on the deal," he said.
The senior Hamas figure said that Israel had vetoed the possibility of even discussing the release from prison or the expulsion of 15 senior imprisoned Hamas members whose names were on the list of 450 prisoners Hamas demanded released in return for captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
The Hamas leader said that the governments of Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Olmert are the ones who reneged from their original positions and are preventing the deal from going through.
"Each time there is progress, the Israeli side pulls back. Initially the Israelis vetoed the release of 149 prisoners and then they went down to 50, and in the last round they insisted on not releasing 15 people who they say have 'blood on their hands,'" the Hamas man said.
According to the Hamas figure, Ahmed Jabari, a senior military commander, opposed the deal without those 15 leading prisoners.
The 15 are senior members of the military arm of the organization. Among them are Abdullah Barghouti, who was responsible for the bombings at Cafe Moment and the Hebrew University, and Abbas al-Sayad, who was accused of planning the Park Hotel bombing in Netanya.
Marwan Barghouti, although not a Hamas man, is also one of the 15, and the Saudi newspaper Al-Madina reported Wednesday that Israel would be willing to release him. There has been no Israeli confirmation of this claim.
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