Hamas has dismissed media reports that the Islamic resistance movement has rejected an Israeli proposed prisoner deal, noting that discussions on the swap deal will continue.
Hamas official website on Tuesday said Israel is refusing to release Marwan Barghouti, Ahmed Saadat, Ibrahim Hamed and Abdullah Barghouti, who are viewed as the “heaviest” prisoners in Israeli prisons.
The prisoner swap comes as pressure at home has mounted on Tel Aviv to a breaking point to secure the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is held by the Hamas resistance fighters.
Israel has proposed to release 450 prisoners in return for Shalit, with an additional 500 prisoners to be released at a later stage. Tel Aviv, however, has been insisting that “some of the heavyweight prisoners” not return to their homes in the West Bank, but instead go to the Gaza Strip or a third country.
On Tuesday, Hamas officials dismissed a report by the Saudi al-Arabiya network that the Palestinian movement had refused the latest Israeli offer, saying the discussions would continue and that the movement was thoroughly examining the Israeli formula.
“Hamas is continuing to hold consultations about the latest offer,” Said Spokesman for the movement Sami Abu Zuhri. “It’s premature to talk about any results.”
There is a fear that Israel’s refusal to accept Hamas’s demands may derail prisoner exchange talks into a stalemate, as it would enable Tel Aviv to deport “too many” Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank and to reject the release of many others.
Meanwhile, Hamas senior official in Lebanon Osama Hamdan on Tuesday warned of capturing more Shalits if Israel did not lower to meet the Palestinians’ conditions for a swap deal.
The head of Israel’s Security Agency (Shin Bet), Yuval Diskin, said on Tuesday that Marwan Barghouti’s possible nomination as the Palestinian Authority chief and the release of Hamas prisoners into the West Bank could give Tel Aviv a serious headache.
Questioned about the possibility of a third intifada, Diskin said that the chances of reaching a situation like the one in 2000 were slim, but warned that “provocations like an attack on the Temple Mount or the burning of mosques” could encourage the anti-Israeli drive.