Israel, Hamas Confirm Resumption of Shalit Talks

Hamas leader Ayman Taha says that recent visit of German mediator Gerhard Conrad brought no results 'that would see movement towards closing a deal.'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leaders, in Gaza and abroad, confirmed on Sunday the resumption of talks aimed at the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit have resumed, through a German mediator.

But Ayman Taha, one of the Hamas leaders who confirmed the report, said the visit of German mediator Gerhard Conrad has brought no results "that would see movement toward closing the deal."

Aviva and Noam Shalit Oct. 17, 2010 (Dror Artzi)
Dror Artzi

News of the renewed negotiations was first made public Saturday, in a statement by Hamas deputy political leader Mousa Abu Marzouk, who is based in Damascus, that was initially denied by a leading figure in the Hamas government in Gaza.

Another Hamas leader, Mushir al-Masri, said Israel is to blame for the failure to reach a prisoner exchange deal and reiterated the Hamas demand that Israel must release Palestinian prisoners who have been involved in the killing of Israelis and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Netanyahu also confirmed the renewal of talks. "There is a resumption of contacts with the German mediator," he told Army Radio on Sunday.

However, Abu Marzouk's comment Saturday has generated confusing and contradictory statements in the ranks of the Hamas leadership.

When asked Saturday whether talks had indeed resumed, Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas figure in the Gaza Strip, said they had not - a position he maintained yesterday, even as other Hamas figures, and Israel, confirmed the initial report.

Zahar, who previously served as foreign minister in the Hamas government, stepped down from a position on the negotiating team for a Shalit deal, because of a clash between Hamas leaders in Gaza and in Damascus.