Thursday, January 29, 2009
Hamas: Shalit in exchange for prisoners
Head of Hamas delegation to Cairo responds to PM Ehud Olmert's position that Gaza border crossings only if significant progress is made in negotiations to return kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit: 'If Israel wants Shalit, it must pay price'
Hamas rejected Wednesday the Israeli truce proposal, with particular opposition to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's demand that it be conditioned on headway made in negotiations to bring home kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit and the opening of Gaza border crossings.. A member of the Hamas delegation to Cairo, Salah al-Bardawil made it clear to the Egyptian mediators that his organization rejects the Israeli proposal for a truce on the grounds that Israel would like to establish a 500-yard security corridor in the Gaza Strip, and on the issue of Gilad Shalit.
Bardawil said on the Shalit issue, the ball is in Israel's court. "The demands are known and the price is known," he said. "It is no secret that there are 11,000 Palestinian prisoners sitting in Israeli prisons. No tie shall be made between the truce and Shalit. If Israel wants to see him released, it must pay the rightful and asked price."
The Hamas delegate added that Hamas does not believe that it lost the war and that Israel is the party trying to paint itself as a victor. "Did they defeat women and children? They did not damage the motivation of the resistance. This is the basis on which we are negotiating, both on the truce and on releasing Shalit," he clarified.
According to him, Hamas will not consider creating a security zone in the Strip. "The Israelis will use this area as an excuse to kill anyone who comes close it, even if they are farmers and innocent civilians, claiming that they are members of the resistance organizations," Bardawil explained.
Bardawil claimed that Israel needs the truce more than Hamas does, but added that his organization has shown considerable flexibility in Cairo and will draft a response to each of the issues on the table in the coming days.