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Hamas: Shalit deal in question

Israel’s attacks in the Gaza Strip have seriously set back efforts to retrieve captive soldier Gilad Shalit, Hamas said.

Khaled Meshaal, the supreme leader of the Palestinian Islamist group, said Wednesday that “there will be no exchange involving Gilad Shalit, no calm or nothing of this sort” when asked about an especially bloody round of violence in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces killed more than 20 Palestinians in Gaza on Tuesday and Wednesday, most of them Hamas gunmen.

Among the dead was a son of Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official. The Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv quoted Israeli security sources as saying they fear Zahar could retaliate by scuppering any deal to recover Shalit.

Hamas has demanded that Israel free 1,400 jailed Palestinians, including top terrorists, in exchange for Shalit, who was abducted in June 2006. Israel has ruled out such a sweeping prisoner amnesty.

It was not clear from Meshaal’s statements whether Hamas had decided against ever freeing Shalit or whether it was threatening to abandon the Egyptian-mediated talks on his release if Israel continues military operations.

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