Ma'an News Agency
November 25, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel has exaggerated the progress of recent prisoner swap talks and manipulated the hopes and expectations of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, Hamas leaders proclaimed late Tuesday.

The proclamation followed days of reports from Palestinian and Israeli media heralding the immanent release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for an Israeli soldier captured in 2006. Talks have been proceeding with German mediation following the release of a video tape showing the Israeli soldier in good health.

"If a deal is not struck in the next 48 hours," Hamas sources said, it will be proof of Israeli reticence over the terms of the swap deal, and a refusal to show seriousness in the talks. One leader called recent media coverage "propaganda only."

Hamas negotiators are aiming for a deal that would see 450 high-profile Palestinian prisoners of Israel released, including Palestinian lawmakers, women, children, those in administrative detention, and long-term prisoners, as well as 550 other Palestinians.

"Palestinian resistance has been ready to close the [captured Israeli soldier Gilad] Shalit file always but Israel has always backed off with excuses over the names of the [450] prisoners. They know the resistance will not change these names no matter how long negotiations take."

According to the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, however, a delegation of Hamas officials was in Damascus Tuesday discussing Israel's latest offer: the release of some high-profile prisoners into exile. The deal, according to the paper, would have some prisoners released and sent to other nations. Palestinian security sources noted earlier in the day that talks suggested to send Fatah leader and high-profile unity advocate Marwan Barghouthi to Gaza, rather than to his native West Bank.

A Fox News report last week said 70 new names were submitted to Israel for consideration after Israel refused dozens on the original list. Hamas leaders did not confirm the addition of names.


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