Palestinian Sources: Hamas Leader Won't Soften Demands for Shalit Swap

Khaled Meshal to hold talks Wednesday with Egyptian intelligence chief, General Murad Muwafi, Al-Hayat reports.

Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal, along with other Hamas officials, will meet with Egyptian intelligence chief General Murad Muwafi on Wednesday for discussions on a deal for the release of captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported.

Palestinian sources emphasized to Al-Hayat that Hamas does not intend to compromise on its demands for the release of prisoners sentenced to long-term jail time and prisoners considered to be political leaders.

Khaled Meshal AP June 2010

Meshal conducted talks in Cairo on Tuesday with Egyptian security officials and other Hamas officials. According to an Al-Jazeera report, the officials discussed the Shalit deal as well as Palestinian reconciliation.

Al-Hayat reported on Tuesday that the purpose of Meshal's Cairo visit was talks with Israel. Meshal's appearance on the stage may point to some measure of progress in the negotiations and perhaps even an imminent decision over a prisoner-swap deal.

Up until now Hamas' military chief Ahmed al-Ja'abari had led the negotiating team for the organization.

Al-Hayat quoted Palestinian sources saying that Israeli negotiators were showing more flexibility than in the past over the release of Israeli Arabs and the number of prisoners who would be deported from the West Bank after their release.

However, senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan told Al-Hayat that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was still not prepared to pay the full, "reasonable" price needed to complete the agreement. In an interview with Filastin, a newspaper considered to be an organ of Hamas, Hamdan said Israel was showing great flexibility over Hamas' demands but added that the parties are not yet approaching agreement.

Most of the dispute now concerns the number of Palestinian prisoners Israel wants to deport after their release (thought to be about half of the 450 prisoners Hamas is demanding be released) and the release of high-profile prisoners such as Marwan Barghouti, according to Al-Hayat.

According to the paper, the first and second round of recent talks were conducted with Ja'abari heading the Hamas delegation and senior Mossad official David Meidan leading the Israeli team.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed on Tuesday that there was "a grain of truth" to reports of the renewal of negotiations in Cairo but sounded a cautious note.

"Twice in the past five years there were genuine talks and they were not completed," Barak said, speaking to Israel's 103 FM radio. "I don't want to say more because it doesn't help. We need to maintain self-control and to hope very much. We all want to see Gilad Shalit at home."