maandag 9 februari 2009

Hamas akkoord met link Shalit aan openen Gaza grens?

Het ziet ernaar uit dat de regering koste wat het kost nog een deal wil sluiten voor het einde van haar termijn. Wat ik vreemd vind is dat het doorlaten van bepaalde materialen naar de Gazastrook afhankelijk wordt gemaakt van Shalits vrijlating. Doorlaten van deze materialen zou eerder gelinkt moeten worden aan strenge controles en garanties van hulporganisaties dat zij niet door Hamas worden geconfisceerd. Met Shalit heeft dat toch verder weinig te maken.


Egypt sources: Hamas agrees to link Shalit deal to opening of Gaza border
By Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff, Jack Khoury and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents 

Hamas has acceded over the past few days to the Israeli demand to link the opening of the border crossings to the release of kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, Egyptian sources told Haaretz on Sunday.

This allows progress toward a cease-fire, by creating a connection between the opening of all crossings by Israel, completion of a prisoner swap and Shalit's release.

Egyptian sources told Haaretz cautiously that they were "very optimistic" about making progress toward a deal in the near future. However,
t hey said it could not be known when there would be a breakthrough.

According to the plan Egypt is promoting, Israel would open the crossings, albeit not totally, when a cease-fire is reached. The crossings would operate at 80-percent capacity, which would allow a large quantity of merchandise to pass into the Gaza Strip, as Hamas is demanding.

However, Israel still insists on the right to prevent certain materials from entering the Strip - including cement, iron and other items. Hamas is believed to want just these materials to come in, to begin rebuilding the thousands of homes destroyed by the Israel Defense Forces during Operation Cast Lead.

Israel says these materials would be allowed in only after an agreement is reached on Shalit's release, in exchange for the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Noam Shalit on Sunday met at his home in Mitzpeh Hila with leaders of the struggle to release his son, to decide how to proceed in light of a possible prisoner exchange. It was suggested that he meet again with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. It emerged from the meeting that the family has no reliable information on a breakthrough in negotiations.

A statement released after the meeting said the family believed the present government was working determinedly to meet its obligation to bring Shalit home before the end of its term.

"[We] understand we are on the brink of an opportunity that will not return to bring Gilad back, when we have all the leverage in our hands. It is inconceivable that the border crossings will be opened without Gilad's return," said the statement.

Meanwhile, three members of the cabinet on Sunday made optimistic statements about a possible release of Shalit before the end of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's term.

Israel apparently intends to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in return for Shalit, among them prisoners who have committed serious offenses, including most of the people Hamas has demanded to be freed.

Defense sources said Sunday they believed a deal could be clinched within a few weeks.

Some movement has been evident in the position of Hamas, which until recently had refused any linkage between a cease-fire, the opening of the border crossings and Shalit's release. However, any deal still needs the approval of Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in Damascus, who has so far opposed it.

A delegation of Hamas leaders headed by Mahmoud Zahar left Cairo on Sunday for Damascus, for talks on the subject with leaders from the movement's political wing. They then returned to Cairo with the Damascus wing's responses to the Egyptian cease-fire plan and the Israeli proposal concerning Shalit's release.

Egypt has specifically noted that reports from Turkey that the Turkish government is participating in mediation efforts with Hamas are incorrect.

Hamas officials who were in Egypt during the past few days have also said that Turkey has played no active part in attaining a cease-fire or a prisoner swap.

Deputy head of the Hamas political bureau Musa Abu-Marzuk on Sunday denied that significant progress had been made toward a deal for Shalit's release.

Said a government source in Jerusalem Sunday: "The decision Israel has to
make involves the names of the prisoners it is willing to release, and all the other issues are marginal."

One proposal is that particularly problematic prisoners would be sent to the Gaza Strip, on the assumption that they would be less dangerous to Israel there than back at home on the West Bank.

Official Israeli sources on Sunday declined to discuss reports in the Arab media that imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti was among those to be released.

The Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam reported Sunday that the latest Israeli proposal mentioned the names of approximately 1,000 prisoners, including 350 on the Hamas list.

Reports about the number of prisoners to be released actually range from 700 to 1,000. If the number is indeed 1,000, the release would take place in three stages: 350 prisoners would be freed simultaneously with Shalit's transfer to a site outside the Gaza Strip (Cyprus or Egypt); 100 more would be released after Shalit is brought to Israel; and the remaining prisoners would be released in the third stage. The release of the last group may be presented as a gesture to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who is the major intermediary in the deal.

The three ministers who spoke about the Shalit release -Defense Minister Ehud Barak, National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Pensioner Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan, who was appointed by Olmert to be on the team dealing with Shalit's release - did so during interviews on Army Radio.

Barak said he did not believe Shalit would be released before the elections, but added that he hopes "we will be wise enough to navigate in a way that will have him home before the end of the present government's term, but that is, as noted, uncertain."

Citing major progress in the talks, Ben-Eliezer said, "We know that Gilad is alive and well," and that he believed "we've never been as close to getting Gilad home as we are now."

Ben-Eliezer added that no matter what the cost, he would vote for the deal.

Eitan also said he believed Shalit's release would happen before the end of Olmert's term.

Speaking at Sunday's cabinet meeting, Olmert called the ministers'
statements "exaggerated and damaging," and said that great caution needs to be exercised in this situation. "When there is something to say, I will say it," he stressed.

Sources close to Olmert were apparently displeased over reports that Barak and his representative, Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's political department, were responsible for moving the agreement forward.

Olmert, Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met to discuss the Shalit deal before Sunday's full cabinet meeting. No details of their meeting were released.

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