The Palestinian Authority (PA) said Thursday it was disappointed Hamas had agreed to allow Israel to exile some of the prisoners that will be released in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
In an interview with France 24 television, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki called into question the timing of the swap, suggesting Hamas and Israel might have collaborated to embarrass the PA.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has seen his support surge on the back of his campaign to win UN recognition for a state of Palestine, and Malki said he suspected the long-awaited prisoner deal was designed to steal his limelight.
"We're happy to see 1,027 released," said Malki. "[But] we were very much disappointed that part of them will be transferred to Gaza and will not stay in their homes with their families in the West Bank, and other parties will also be deported outside," he added.
According to Israeli officials, the deal between Israel and Hamas will see Shalit released in exchange for the progressive release of 1,027 detainees, some 40 of whom will be exiled overseas and another 163 sent to Gaza.
Gaza is controlled by Hamas, an Islamist militant group and rival to Abbas's PA, which controls Palestinian territory on the West Bank.
"We are very much disappointed in this part of the deal because we don't want to see any Palestinian being deported from his own territory by a decision taken by his own people," Malki said.
"In this case Hamas has taken a decision to agree on the deportation of so many people outside their homes in the West Bank and outside of their homes in Palestine as a whole," he added.
"What I want to focus here is on the timing," he added, alleging that the deal was linked to Abbas's demand that the United Nations recognise Palestine as a state, which has been very popular among his people.
"Of course, when the popularity of President Abbas has been rising that high after his speech in the General Assembly delivering our application, one has to question the timing," Malki said.
"Is it really intended to boost the popularity of the Israeli government and Hamas vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas? That's a really legitimate question to be asked," he said.