PRC Leader: Israel Must Lift Gaza Siege

Israel must lift its siege on Gaza with the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the Popular Resistance Committee secretary-general said Monday.

"Israel has no excuses now to keep the siege over Gaza after the release of Shalit," Zuher al-Qeisi told Ma’an.

Israel has agreed to free 1,027 prisoners in exchange for soldier Gilad Shalit, captured near the Gaza border in June 2006.

Israel launched air strikes and raided the Gaza Strip for five months following Shalit’s capture in efforts to free the tank gunner, and has imposed closures and tied its blockade of the coastal enclave to the soldier’s fate.

Al-Qeisi said Israel "always invents excuses" to dominate and attack Gaza, adding that he hoped Arab and European states would intervene to end the siege.

Meanwhile, the PRC leader said the prisoner swap deal was "a great achievement," but expressed regret that it did not include prominent prisoners Marwan Barghouti, a charismatic Fatah leader, or Ahmad Saadat, secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

"If Saadat and Barghouti were on the list that could have been a greater achievement and our happiness would complete but alas, we didn’t achieve all our demands."

But, "Israel freed one Shalit who is worth nothing and we freed hundreds of detainees and we will make all efforts to release the rest and end the occupation."

He added that the deal would benefit Hamas and the PRC as they were responsible for capturing Shalit.

Hamas has hailed the deal as a national victory and the timing comes at a good moment for the Islamist movement.

The prisoner swap switches attention back to the party that had appeared eclipsed in recent weeks by President Mahmoud Abbas’ drive to secure full UN membership in the face of stiff US and Israeli opposition.

Hamas’ criticism of the diplomatic move had appeared out of tune with public support that peaked with a strong speech Abbas delivered to the UN General Assembly on September 23.

(Ma’an News)

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