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Hamas: Accepting Israel’s Offer for Shalit ‘Unlikely’

A senior Hamas official said Tuesday that despite unprecedented progress in prisoner swap negotiations, the Islamist movement was unlikely to accept Israel’s offer for a deal that would see the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit.

The German negotiator mediating the exchange arrived in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday to receive Hamas’ response which, according to Israel Radio, was unlikely to be positive.

Hamas deputy political leader Moussa Abu Marzouk told the Al-Hayat daily that in its latest offer, Israel had pulled back on issues to which it had already agreed.

The Dubai-based Al-Arabiya last week quoted Hamas sources as saying that Israel is delaying the completion of the Shalit deal by refusing to release 50 Hamas officials it holds in its jails.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday discussed the negotiations to swap hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for Shalit, who has been held in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip for more than three years.

At the center of Israel’s demands is an insistence that between 100 and 130 of the Palestinian prisoners who are to be released in exchange for Shalit — individuals convicted of direct responsibility for the deaths of Israelis — will be expelled to the Gaza Strip or abroad and barred from returning to the West Ban

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