New European mediator in Hamas-Israel prisoner exchange deal

Saleh Naami , Tuesday 19 Apr 2011

Sources suggest that progress is being made after previous mediator Conrad failed to impress Hamas

Palestinians playing the role of Israeli soldiers and others playing the role of prisoners take part in a protest in front of the Red Cross headquarters in Gaza City, 17 April 2011, calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. April 17 marks Palestinian Prisoners Day. (Reuters)

A source from Hamas’ leadership declined to disclose which country now handled the case but said that the new mediator shows signs of sincerity and inventiveness.

The source criticised previous mediator Gerhard Conrad’s behaviour, saying that the leadership of Hamas was upset with his acceptance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opting out of his predecessor Ehud Olmert's commitments in terms of the release of Palestinian detainees.

Hamas had expected Conrad to change Netanyahu’s position, only to find him trying to promote Netanyahu’s stance to them instead, the source said.

The deal Netanyahu wanted to conclude would have excluded a large number of Palestinian detainees from release, explained the source, stressing that this was something Hamas could not accept.

Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz implied that "positive" developments are coming soon in Shalit’s case when he visited the sit-in in front of Netanyahu’s home by the family of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured by Hamas in 2006.

Gantz told Shalit’s family that he is personally supervising the intensive effort of the Israeli government to secure the release of their son.

He also mentioned that a number of retired generals and leaders from Israeli intelligence urged Netanyahu to pay the necessary price for Shalit’s release, whatever it may be.

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