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Sunday, January 7, 2007

Israel rejects Hamas video of soldier - source

Israel rejects Hamas video of soldier - source
07 Jan 2007 08:10:48 GMT
Source: Reuters

JERUSALEM, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Israel has rejected an offer from Hamas militants of a videotape to prove a soldier held captive in Gaza was alive in return for the release of more than 200 Palestinian prisoners, an Israeli political source said on Sunday.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said he was willing to free Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel for Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was captured last June in a cross-border raid by gunmen from the ruling Hamas movement and other factions.
The source said Hamas had made the offer and that Olmert replied that "for the price they wanted for the tape we said, we would rather receive the person (Shalit)".

The mass-circulation Israeli daily Maariv also said Olmert had refused to free prisoners just for a video of Shalit.

It said it was not the first time the Israeli leader had refused to pay for a sign of life of the soldier, who is widely believed to be alive.

Miri Eisin, a spokeswoman for Olmert, would not comment.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has been mediating to arrange an Israeli-Palestinian prisoner swap, said at a summit with Olmert last Thursday in Egypt he hoped an agreement would be reached soon.

Palestinian armed factions have demanded Israel release more than 1,000 prisoners for Shalit. Israel holds some 11,000 Palestinian prisoners in its jails.

Israel and Western countries have boycotted the Hamas-led Palestinian government that rose to power in March because the Islamist group refuses to recognise the Jewish state.

Last week Israel denied a Hamas assertion that there had been a breakthrough in talks to free Shalit, and would release Palestinians jailed on charges of attacking Israelis.

Israel has in the past refused to free prisoners with "blood on their hands".

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