31/08/2009 Hamas has rejected every Israeli request to exile some of the Palestinian detainees due to be released as part of a deal for captured Israeli occupation soldier Gilad Shalit, a senior official in the Islamic resistance group said Sunday.
Osama al-Mzainy, the Hamas official in charge of the Shalit affair, also insisted that no quick agreement over the captured soldier is in sight.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, al-Mzainy said every prisoner should be allowed to return home. “All the statements about optimism and expectations – that the deal will soon be sealed – all these statements are exaggerated,” he told the television station. “We still need some time in order to overcome the obstacles put up by the Israelis.”
He said Israel’s demand that some of the released detainees be deported is what caused the talks to fail when Ehud Olmert was prime minister, and if Israel continued to insist on this point, the current negotiations would fail as well.
Hamas, he added, has not backed down on any of its demands, including the release of 1,000 detainees in total. “They will be released in two stages. The first group will comprise 450 prisoners, whose names will be determined by Hamas … In the second stage, 550 prisoners will be released. Hamas is attached to this plan. We will not accept any deal unless this request is accepted,” al-Mzainy told Al Jazeera.
The Hamas official’s comments came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday that there had been no breakthrough in talks with Hamas over Shalit, and people should not expect a deal to be concluded in the coming days. He was responding to a spate of recent media reports claiming that a deal was near.
Netanyahu told the closed cabinet session that “talk about a deal [for Shalit] being closed in the next few days has no basis, and it will not happen tomorrow or the day after.” “We must bring Shalit back home safe and sound, but nonetheless, there is a great deal of exaggeration and inaccurate information out there,” he added.
- FLASHBACK: TWO MONTHS AGO