Ma'an News Agency
December 3, 2009 - 1:00am

Gaza – Ma’an – A spokesman for the captors of Gilad Shalit in Gaza denied on Thursday a report that the Israeli soldier was transferred to Egypt as a step toward a prisoner exchange.

Popular Resistance Committees spokesman Abu Mujahid said in a statement that Israel is propagating false information about Shalit in order to force the hand of the Palestinian negotiators.

"The ball is in Israel's court," he said, noting that a "deal is not over yet."

Osama Hamdan, a Hamas official in Lebanon, denied the report, telling Al-Jazeera television that he "didn't know where it came from."

The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida quoted anonymous sources on Thursday saying Shalit arrived at a secret location in Cairo a few days ago accompanied by Hamas’ military chief, Ahmad Jabari, and top political leader Mahmoud Zahhar.

The report states that Shalit and the Hamas leaders went to a security compound on the Egyptian side of the border town of Rafah and waited one hour before being taken to Cairo on a tour bus.

Al-Jarida’s source claimed that Hamas handed Shalit over to Egypt as a signal proving that the movement is serious about concluding a prisoner exchange deal with Israel.

The report says the transfer came as part of a tripartite agreement between Egypt, Israel, and Hamas. The newspaper interprets the reported transfer as a diplomatic victory for Cairo, which acted along with Germany as an intermediary between Israel and Hamas.

The newspaper’s report follows two weeks of frenzied speculation that Hamas and Israel could be close to a deal.

On Wednesday jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi’s wife Fadwa told Ma’an she had received no official word on her husband’s release.

A popular figure among Fatah’s grassroots, Marwan Barghouthi is one of approximately 1,000 Palestinians who could be released in a prisoner exchange between Israel and the captors of soldier Gilad Shalit in Gaza.

On Wednesday the London-based Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat reported that Israel will only release Barghouthi on the condition that he is sent into exile.


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