Hamas leader Mahmoud az-Zahar says negotiations for a prisoner swap deal between his group and Israel have reached a dead end.
"As regarding negotiations, as of now the process has failed," he said on Tuesday in an interview with the BBC.
"The main cause, well-known to everybody, well-known to the mediator, that after the interference of the political element, after the appearance of [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu personally, there was a big regression and retraction. For this reason negotiations have now stopped," he said.
Az-Zahhar added that Hamas wants around 1,000 Palestinians to be freed from Israeli jails and also provide a chance for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to join his family. But, he said, the Israeli side, after several rounds of talks, have moved backwards once again.
Another reason that the talks came to a halt was the assassination of senior Hamas military commander Mahmud Abdel Rauf al-Mabhuh in Dubai, allegedly carried out by notorious agents of Israel’s Mossad Intelligence Agency.
The assassination, the Hamas official said, was a "cowardly move meant to punish Hamas for its firm stance on the prisoner swap deal."