Israel accuses Hamas of raising harsh new demands for Shalit’s release

Prime minister Ehud Olmert accused Hamas Monday night, March 16, of hardening its position on terms for the release of the Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit, reneging on past understandings and raising new, excessive demands in the face of generous Israeli proposals for closing the gap between them.
This statement followed the report by Olmert’s envoys, Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin and special negotiator for prisoners Ofer Dekel, on their return from Cairo Monday night with a negative report on the final effort to negotiate a prisoner swap for the soldier held captive nearly three years. The talks were brokered by Egyptian intelligence minister Omar Suleiman.
Earlier, debkafile reported exclusively that Syrian president Bashar Assad had ordered the extremist Hamas to drop its all-or-nothing ultimatum and lower its demands form 100 to 90 percent. This gave Israel a narrow margin of hope for its last effort, which was dashed when put to the test..
The special cabinet meeting called Monday to hear their report was therefore postponed to Tuesday. Monday night, Olmert had not decided whether it was worth summoning the ministers at all.
Israel made concessions to narrow the gaps on the number and identity of hard-case Palestinian terrorists convicted of multiple murder demanded by Hamas for Shalit’s freedom, as well as on their destinations after they leave Israeli prisons.
Israel feels it is too dangerous to let high-profile terrorist operatives go back to their old haunts on the West Bank which has been more or less pacified in recent years, and wants them exiled after their release.
Friday, March 13, upon returning from the Riyadh summit, Assad instructed Hamas to marginally ease its demands in keeping with a promise he gave Mubarak, Abdullah and the Kuwait emir. The Egyptian president secretly phoned Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert with the news of a new lease of life for the prisoner negotiations so prompting the final round. Instead, Hamas used Israel’s latest bid to turn the screw
Monday night it looked as though the Israeli-Hamas impasse over Gilead Shalit would be turned over to the next government headed by Binyamin Netanyahu.

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