Avi Issacharoff
December 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Hamas is leaning toward accepting Israel's latest offer on a deal for the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the pan-Arab newspaper A-Sharq Al-Awset reported Thursday.

According to the paper, the proposal does not include the release of hardened Palestinian terrorists from Israeli custody.

There are still divisions within Hamas over the matter, A-Sharq Al-Awset reported, between those who back accepting the current offer, and those who want the Islamist militant group to insist on the terrorists' release.

Palestinian sources have told Haaretz that the Hamas leadership abroad is leading the opposition against move, along with group's military wing in Gaza; the Hamas leadership in the coastal territory, however, is in favor of it.

Abdallah Barghouti, a senior bombmaker for Hamas' military wing in the West Bank, and Abbas a-Sayad, the Hamas head in Tul Karm who planned the 2002 massacre during Passover in Netanya's Park Hotel, are among the prisoners whom Israel proposes to leave out of the deal, A-Sharq Al-Awset said.

They were quoted as telling Hamas leaders that this is the last chance to secure their release, warning that if they were not exchanged for Shalit, they would remain in Israeli jails forever.

On Tuesday, Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha said Tuesday that the sides were still a long way off from reaching a deal for Shalit, who was kidnapped in a 2006 cross-border raid by Gaza militants


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017