Hamas has accused Israel of hindering a prisoner swap deal after Tel Aviv expressed reservations over the return of some of the released Palestinian prisoners to their homes in the occupied West Bank.
In its reply to Hamas’ request on Tuesday, passed via a German mediator, Israel balked at allowing “some of the heavyweight prisoners” to return to their homes in the West Bank, insisting that they instead go to the Gaza Strip or a third country.
The message was relayed to Hamas late Monday after marathon talks were held at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri blamed Israel for stalling negotiations to swap hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for a captured Israeli soldier, AFP reported.
He said the high-level talks merely showed the Israeli divisions were behind the delay in reaching a deal to release Gilad Shalit, who was captured in a cross-border operation from the Gaza Strip in 2006.
“The division inside the Israeli government is responsible for hindering the agreement,” said Zuhri.
He said the movement had not “closed the door on the negotiations” but that it would adhere to its conditions.
According to the Israeli and Palestinian officials, Israel would release 450 Palestinian prisoners in return for Shalit with an additional 500 prisoners to be released at a later stage.
There are currently some 8,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.