German mediator, Hamas meet over prisoner swap

JERUSALEM (JTA) – The German mediator in the Gilad Shalit prison swap negotiations arrived in Gaza and met with Hamas officials.

The mediator arrived in Gaza on Wednesday to deliver Israel’s response to the proposed prisoner exchange that would bring the captured Israeli soldier home after more than three years in captivity in Gaza, in exchange for the release of some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s inner Cabinet of seven ministers on Tuesday arrived at a response early Tuesday after five meetings in two days, which reportedly called for a continuation of the mediation, but with certain conditions on the prisoner release.

Israel reportedly wants Palestinian prisoners who directly caused the death of Israelis to be barred from returning to their homes in the West Bank, and instead be deported to Gaza or abroad.

Senior Hamas leaders will reportedly meet in Damascus on Thursday to consider Israel’s response. 

Meanwhile, a report Wednesday in the Al-Hayat, a daily pan-Arab newspaper out of London, says that Israel is refusing to release seven prisoners out of 450 demanded by Hamas, including former Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti.

Also Wednesday, the Al-Quds Al-Arabi Arabic newspaper published in London called on Hamas to reject Israel’s response to Hamas’ recommended deal, saying Hamas should "hold firm in its refusal to conditions and pressure exerted by Israel and the West, even if this leads to the collapse of the deal," the Jerusalem Post reported. 

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