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Friday, January 5, 2007

Hamas: We agree to Israeli Shalit proposal

Hamas: We agree to Israeli Shalit proposal
By Avi Issacharoff

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said yesterday the organization has accepted a prisoner exchange offer conveyed by Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman during his visit to Saudi Arabia last weekend. Barhoum confirmed to Haaretz that Suleiman had met in Saudi Arabia with Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
Suleiman presented the officials with Israel's offer to release about 450 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of Gilad Shalit. Under the terms of the deal, Hamas would give Israel a video proving that Shalit is still alive. In exchange, Israel would release women and minors being held in its jails. Palestinian sources said agreement had been reached on the number of prisoners to be included in this group. They did not disclose the number but emphasized it does not include all Palestinian women and minors being held in Israel.
About two months after Shalit's return, Israel would release a second group of prisoners. Israel has promised to be "generous" with the numbers being released.
If the deal is completed, Hamas will be able to claim that Israel agreed to free more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, while Israel will claim that it released only 500 to 600, and that the remainder were released in negotiations with PA Chair Mahmoud Abbas.
The agreement is not yet a done deal, however. Palestinian source reported that Hamas gave Egypt a list of about 450 prisoners it wishes to see freed. Senior Hamas officials now claim they are waiting for Israel's response. Palestinian sources expect the negotiations to be held up over the inclusion on this list of senior Hamas military figures who were responsible for a large number of suicide attacks, and key Palestinian figures such as Marwan Barghouti.
On Sunday the Egyptian security delegation currently in Gaza met with Abbas to update him on the agreement between Israel and Hamas over the number of prisoners to be freed. The Egyptians told him, however, there is still disagreement over which individuals are to be released.
Arab summit mooted
Meanwhile, the Cairo daily Al Ahram reported yesterday that a mini-Arab summit is to be convened in the Egyptian capital shortly to discuss the creation of a Palestinian unity government. Representatives from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and perhaps even Syria are expected to attend, in addition to Abbas and Haniyeh. A scheduled visit by Haniyeh to Jordan has apparently been canceled.

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