Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:34 AM ET
GAZA (Reuters) - The ruling Hamas movement said on Friday an Israeli soldier captured by Palestinian gunmen in June would not be freed unless the Jewish state simultaneously released long-serving Palestinian prisoners and faction leaders.
While Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said late last month he would be willing to free many Palestinian prisoners, including those who had served lengthy terms, he indicated Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit had to be released first.
Senior Hamas leader Khalil Al-Hayya told a large Hamas rally in Gaza: "The Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit will never be freed unless our hero prisoners, the long-serving and the faction leaders are freed in a reciprocal and simultaneous manner."
Shalit was captured by a group of Palestinian militants, including members of Hamas, during a June 25 cross-border raid. It triggered a crushing five-month long Israeli military offensive into the coastal strip.
Israel has said it agreed to freeing Palestinian prisoners only after Shalit is returned, because a simultaneous exchange could be seen as "rewarding terror".
Hamas has demanded the exchange of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
Israeli officials have said that there was no decision yet on which prisoners would be released and whether the number might include any with "blood on their hands".
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