Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post
January 1, 2010 - 1:00am

Hamas said on Thursday that although it has reservations about the latest Israeli prisoner exchange proposal, its leaders will continue the negotiations.

The announcement came as sources close to Hamas talked about divisions in the movement over the proposed prisoner swap agreement.

The sources said that Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip appeared to be more flexible, while the movement's senior leadership in Syria was refusing to make any concessions.

A Hamas legislator in the Gaza Strip said the main unresolved issue regarded the release by Israel of four prominent prisoners: Fatah's Marwan Barghouti, Ahmed Sa'adat of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the commanders of the armed wing of Hamas, Abdullah Barghouti and Ibrahim Hamed.

The legislator said that Hamas had rejected Israel's demand to deport more than 140 prisoners after their release.

A Hamas delegation headed by Mahmoud Zahar, Nizar Awadallah and Khalil al-Haya returned to the Gaza Strip earlier in the day following talks in Syria with leaders of the Islamist movement on the proposed deal.

On their way back, the Hamas men stopped in Cairo, where they briefed Egyptian government officials on Hamas's position regarding a swap. The three are also believed to have relayed Hamas's position to the German mediator who has been overseeing the negotiations between the movement and Israel.

"The door has not been closed to a deal over the release of [IDF soldier] Gilad Schalit," Zahar told reporters upon his return. "Hamas has reservations [about the latest Israeli offer], but its leadership will continue to negotiate. Hamas will announce its final position in the next phase."


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