Gulf & Middle East
Talks with Israel on prisoners reach 'good stage': Hamas
Apr 10, 2007 - 4:32:21 PM

Damascus, April 10 - A senior Hamas official has confirmed that negotiations over a prisoner swap betweeen Israel and the Palestinian have reached a 'good stage,' but cast doubts over the seriousness of the Israeli leadership in meeting the Palestinian demands.

'The ball is now in the Israeli court,' said Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas' political bureau.

The Palestinian captors of the Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, handed the names of Palestinian prisoners they wanted freed to Israel several days ago through Egyptian mediators. Hamas-allied militants in Gaza seized Shalit 10 months ago.

Abu Marzouk, speaking to DPA late Monday, stopped short of disclosing the number of Palestinian prisoners they wanted freed by Israel, saying only that the prisoners would be released in two stages, the first to include women and children.

He said the list of the Palestinian prisoners submitted to Israel includes the names of some Palestinian leaders from all Palestinian factions.

Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti confirmed Monday that Marwan Barghouti, a senior figure in Mahmoud Abbas'moderate Fatah movement, and Ahmed Saadat, the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, are on the list.

'The release of the Israeli soldier depends on the other party's agreement on what has been submitted,' Abu Marzouk said, adding that it would be very difficult to give a time for the release 'because the popularity of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is at its lowest level, a matter which makes him incapable of taking critical decisions.'

He stressed that the captors of Shalit would 'take very good care of him.'

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