If Hamas okays new Israel list, Shalit-prisoner swap could be on track by Friday
debkafile reports high suspense in Jerusalem as Hamas representatives from Damascus and Gaza Strip head for Cairo Monday Nov. 23 to review the new list of jailed Palestinians Israel is offering as part of its trade for soldier Gilead Shalit. The new list substitutes 70 names for the hard-core killers whom Israel refused to set free. The dispute over this group held up the deal over a total of 1,000 jailed Palestinians to be traded for many long months. The next 24 hours will show whether Hamas is willing to go through with the new accord negotiated by a German mediator over the makeup over the new list or torpedo it at the eleventh hour.
debkafile‘s Middle East sources report that for now Hamas leaders appear keen on clinching it – both to demean the rival Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, and as a step toward international acceptance as a credible organization and not just as Islamic extremist terrorists.
For the sake of momentum, Hamas as agreed that some members of the group of 450 prisoners “with blood on their hands” will be banished to European countries. The German government which is sponsoring the negotiations has obtained the consent of Italy, Norway, Ireland and Spain to accept the freed Palestinian terrorists.
Syria has contributed to the final agreement by approving it. The Assad regime is not averse to taking in some of the most notorious inmates, including Ibrahim Hamad, cousin of the Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and former Hamas West Bank commander, or Abdullah Barghouti, who was serving 70 life terms for orchestrating several murderous terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources expect that once they arrive, these big guns will make trouble and start fighting to take over Hamas’ Damascus headquarters, using the assets they acquired from close acquaintance with Israeli security and fluent Hebrew.
A number of American and Arab media reported Sunday night, Nov. 22 that the deal was already in the bag. Israeli sources advised caution, only disclosing that if and when Israel opens the prison doors to release the first batch of Palestinians, Hamas will transfer Gilead Shalit from the Gaza Strip to Cairo. He will wait there for the rest of the 1,000 Palestinian prisoners to be freed and only then will he be allowed to return home more than three years after he was kidnapped by Palestinian cross-border raiders outside the Gaza Strip.