Hamas on Cease-Fire, Shalit Release

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CBNNews.com - GAZA STRIP - In what may be the newest turn in brokering a cease-fire with Israel, a senior Hamas official said the group would not oppose simultaneous negotiations on the release of captured IDF (Israel Defense Forces) Corporal Gilad Shalit.

Hamas has held Shalit captive since kidnapping him on June 25, 2006, in a cross-border attack on an IDF outpost near the Kerem Shalom crossing with the Gaza Strip.

According to senior Hamas legislator Salah al-Bardawil, Hamas would be ready to discuss a prisoner exchange as early as Thursday, the Palestinian news agency, Ma'an, reported.

In exchange for Shalit, the terror group has demanded the release of around 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, some with "blood on their hands," convicted of terror attacks in which Israelis were killed.

Though the daily transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza has continued with few interruptions, even during the three-week Operation Cast Lead despite attacks on the trucks and pilfering of the goods by Hamas, it wants materials Israel has refused to deliver.

Israeli officials believe Hamas wants these banned goods to fortify its terrorist infrastructure, including weaponry, underground bunkers and smuggling tunnels.

According to the Palestinian news agency report, Israel has agreed to allow 75 percent of those goods to be transferred in exchange for Shalit's release.

"We have no objection to a cease-fire in exchange for lifting the siege and opening crossing points," Ma'an quoted Bardawil, who said the Egyptian-mediated talks were progressing.

"Hamas addressed the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire with Israel positively," Bardawil said.

"However, Hamas asked for explanations of some Israeli proposals, especially the objection to allowing certain materials into the Gaza Strip, which Israel claims are used to make weapons," he said.

Source: Haaretz

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