GAZA STRIP - A senior Hamas official denied statements by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that a prisoner exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was nearing fruition.
Shalit was abducted by Palestinian terrorists on June 25, 2006, in a cross-border attack on an army outpost near the Kerem Shalom crossing with the Gaza Strip.
In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth published on Friday, Mubarak said he believed Shalit's return was imminent.
"I really believe the matter is about to be resolved soon, but I cannot commit to an exact date," Mubarak said, according to the report.
But later on Friday, Senior Hamas official Osama al-Muzeini said no progress has been made in the Egyptian-mediated negotiations for Shalit's release.
In innuendos reminiscent of Hezbollah during two years of negotiations for the return of captured Israel Defense Forces reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, al-Muzeini said no one, including himself, knew of Shalit's condition.
According to al-Muzeini, senior Hamas officials have been kept in the dark about Shalit since the IDF's military operation in the Gaza Strip in January.
"We don't know if he's injured, sick or dead. That's the truth, and there is no Hamas tactic here," he said in response to Mubarak's assurances that Shalit is in good health, which al-Muzeini dismissed as "public relations" not based on "real information."
In the interview, Mubarak claimed Shalit is in good condition.
"He is treated well and is safe and sound. The moment a deal is reached, he will be handed over to us in Egypt until Israel releases all the Palestinian prisoners. When this happens, Shalit will return home," Mubarak said.
Al-Muzeini countered, saying the soldier's fate will not be known until all Hamas prisoners have been released. His remarks were reminiscent of the heartbreaking event that took place on July 16, 2008, at the northern border.
The prisoner exchange with Hezbollah was carried live on Israeli TV.
The whole country watched as the families of the reservists waited at the border, hoping to see their loved ones returned to them alive.
Instead, two coffins were handed over in exchange for five Lebanese prisoners, among them Samir Kuntar, serving five life sentences for murder, including that of a four-year-old girl, whom he bludgeoned to death.
Source: Ynet news