Friday, March 16, 2007

PRC spokesman cites 'dramatic developments' in Shalit swap

...And what to make of this. A new Journalist on the scene, a strange story sourced from one of the myriad 'spokesmen', and an indication that the statement serves as part of the negotiations. I have now met all the families of the missing soldiers, and want to see them safely returned. If it was my child no cost would be too high. It isn't, and this exchange - Barghouti alone is worth a comprehensive deal - seems unbalanced. But Israel - proudly and correctly - has always been weakened by, as my grandmother never fails to remind me: 'Every single one counts'.

By Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondent

Abu Mujahed, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip said Friday that dramatic developments have occurred in negotiations over the release of Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, held captive in the Strip since June 25 of last year.

The spokesman made the statement in an interview with A-Sinara newspaper, published in Nazareth.

He said the prisoner exchange would include all the leaders of Palestinian factions jailed in Israel, including Marwan Barghouti of Fatah, Ahmed Sadaat and Abdel Rahim Maluah of the Popular Resistance Committees and leaders of Hamas.

Abu Mujahed said that the exchange could be carried out shortly if agreed to by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

He refrained from divulging details, however, for fear that Israel would reject the offer, and "we would then return to the starting point."

The exchange includes plans to free security prisoners who are citizens of Israel, within the framework of the exchange between Israel and Hamas, Mounir Mansour, chairman of the Association for Prisoners' Welfare told Haaretz.

He said the exchange would include five such prisoners, including Sami Yunis, 77, and his cousin Maher Wakrim Yunis of the northern village of Ara, and Safi Manour of Tira.

All of these prisoners are serving life sentences.

The name of Hafez Kundus of Jaffa, serving 29 years, was also raised.

A report on the Al-Jazeera website indicated that the inclusion of these security prisoners was a major point of dispute in the negotiations.

Suleiman Abu Snina, minister-designate for prisoner affairs in the Palestinian unity government, said Israel demanded at the beginning of the negotiations exclusive control over the names of the prisoners, and refused to allow the release of prisoners who are Israeli citizens.

The Palestinian negotiators, however, refused to compromise on their position.

Abu Mujahed said he could not speak about the issue of the release of prisoners who are Israeli citizens, but said Israel refused to negotiate on the matter.

He called on Noam Shalit, the father of the captive soldier, to pressure the Israeli government to push the issue of an exchange, and said that his son's keepers are treating him humanely.

No comments: