Source: Hamas Agreed to Deport Prisoners

Hamas agreed during talks with the previous Israeli administration to deport 82 prisoners to Gaza rather than their hometowns but the new government refused, a top party official said Saturday.

The movement also offered to let Israel pick 550 of the prisoners it would release in exchange for captured soldier Gilad Shalit, the senior Hamas official wrote in a document smuggled from prison.

"Hamas was flexible; it demanded the release of 1,000 out of 7,000 prisoners," the official said. Hamas "gave Israel the freedom of choosing 550 prisoners out of a total of 1,000."

He added: "Hamas was also flexible when it agreed on deporting 82 prisoners to Gaza and to other countries" as opposed to the West Bank and the talks "were finished at this point, during the Olmert era."

But when Benjamin Netanyahu became prime minister of Israel in 2009, he gave the negotiators new instructions that cancelled any prior agreements. Hamas says it refused to backtrack.

"When the German middleman visited, it was discovered that Netanyahu wanted to manage the issue rather than resolve it. He wants to resubmit an old offer with a new formula," the letter says.

Netanyahu also refused to release prisoners who hold Israeli citizenship, he added. "Refusing to release [these] detainees means Netanyahu does not want to settle the matter."

He concluded: “Bibi is using Shalit’s case for [domestic] politics; this will not change unless it becomes clear to those around him and in Israel that he is deceiving Shalit’s family and misleading Israeli public opinion.”

Gilad Shalit has been held since June 2006. Indirect negotiations on a prisoner swap, which would see hundreds of Palestinians released in exchange for Shalit, have been stalled for months.

He has not been permitted visits by the Red Cross, and the last sign of life dates back to October 2009 when Hamas released a video of him calling on Netanyahu to do everything to free him.

(Ma’an News)

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