Shalit Campaign: Family Knows Nothing Regarding Resumption of Prisoner Swap Talks

Hamas confirms that talks have resumed regarding a prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel as part of a deal to secure release of Gilad Shalit.

Shimshon Liebman, the head of the campaign to free captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, told Haaretz on Saturday that the Shalit family has not received any new information regarding the renewal of prisoner swap negotiations between Hamas and Israel.

Gilad Shalit

"For four years, we've heard similar reports and nothing happened," Liebman said. "Also in the Ron Arad case, there were rumors of talks and 24 years have now passed. All of these rumors don't change the fact that the state, led by the prime minister, is obligated with the responsibility to return Gilad home."

Top Hamas official Musa Abu Marzuq confirmed Saturday that German-mediated negotiations have resumed regarding a prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel as part of a deal to secure Shalit's release.

Marzuq confirmed reports recently denied by the Hamas party that the German mediator, Gerhard Conrad, visited the coastal enclave two weeks ago in a bid to resume the frozen negotiations.

Shalit was kidnapped by Gaza militants in a cross-border raid in 2006 and has been held by Hamas since. Hamas has demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons in exchange for Shalit's freedom.

The negotiations have been stuck in recent months following Conrad's failure to reach a deal. The previous round of talks broke down due to Israel's rejection of Hamas's demands.

In an interview with the London based Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat, Marzuq said that the German mediator visited Gaza in order to synchronize positions, but added that the Hamas continued to insist on its previous list of prisoners demanded in exchange for Shalit's release.

Liebman said that, from the perspective of the Shalit family, the fate of Gilad Shalit lies in the hands of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

 "The question is if [Netanyahu] has the courage to fulfill his obligation and the obligation of the state to its soldiers," he said.

Two weeks ago, the Gaza-based Palestinian website reported the talks were undertaken in secret, under Egypt's aegis and had garnered significant progress.

A senior Hamas official in Gaza, Mahmoud a-Zahar, denied the talks' existence. If the negotiations had been resumed he would have known about it, he told Israel Radio.

The Prime Minister's Office responded to the reports saying there was no new German mediator and talks to release Shalit were ongoing through existing channels.

The report also said that Israel displayed more flexibility regarding the prisoners it was willing to release. In the past, negotiations broke down over specific prisoners whom Israel was unwilling to free.

According to the website, Israel was now willing to be more flexible on a number of prisoners it had previously refused to release because they had blood on their hands or represented security risks. The list includes Marwan Barghouti, Ahmad Sadat, one of Hamas' military faction's leaders, Ibrahim Hamad and Hamas activists Abdullah Barghouti, Abbas Sayad, Jamal Abu Al-Hija.

Abed al-Nasser Isa, Hassan Salame and Walid Aakal. Three female prisoners - Amana Mona, Kahariya A-Sahi and Ahlam A-Tamimi - are also included.

Hamas had stated it would not free Shalit unless Israel released all 450 prisoners on the list the organization passed on to Egypt four years ago. Israel agreed to release most of those on the list, apart from a few dozen it sees as most dangerous.

Israel demanded the expulsion of close to 100 of the released prisoners from the West Bank, their home. But Hamas refused, demanding the prisoners be allowed to return home to the West Bank and not be deported to Gaza.