Friday, 4 September 2009

Hamas Said Ready to Sign Shalit Deal this Weekend

Hamas Said Ready to Sign Shalit Deal this Weekend

04/09/2009 Hamas politburo Chief Khaled Mashaal is planning to finalize a prisoner swap deal for the release of captured Israeli occupation soldier Gilad Shalit on a rare visit to Cairo this weekend, top Palestinian sources told the Saudi daily Al-Watan on Friday.

Hamas spokesman Taher Al-Nunu confirmed that Mashaal was traveling to Cairo on Saturday for a round of talks with Egyptian officials, attended by the organization's top-brass from Gaza and Damascus.

According to the Al-Watan report, Mashaal intends to use the visit to approve the clauses of the prisoner swap deal and sign off onto a final draft. No other sources could confirm the report.

France's envoy to Israel met Friday with Shalit's parents to give them a letter on behalf of President Nicolas Sarkozy, pledging Paris' commitment to their son's release.

Besides the return of the Israeli occupation soldier, whom Hamas captured in 2006, the parties will also discuss talks for reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. However, this track is seen as having few chances to succeed, making it likelier that the parties will focus on the prisoner deal.

The arrival of Mashaal is an unusual occurrence. He usually travels to Cairo only for crucial issues or the signing of contracts or deals. Mashaal was supposed to visit Cairo last Tuesday, but his departure was delayed after his father passed away in Jordan.

Mashaal's deputy, Mussa Abu Marzuk, has said that a German mediator facilitating the deal between Israel and Hamas has traveled 11 times to the region, and is "very earnest in his intention to bring about a deal."

Osama al-Mzainy, the Hamas official in charge of the Shalit affair, recently said that no quick agreement over the captured soldier is in sight.

Hamas, he added, has not backed down on any of its demands, including the release of 1,000 detainees in total. The Hamas official's comments came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday that there had been no breakthrough in talks with Hamas over Shalit, and people should not expect a deal to be concluded in the coming days.

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