Hamas, Fatah Issue Statements to Israel

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JERUSALEM, Israel - The Gaza-based Hamas faction issued two statements on Friday, both regarding prisoner issues.

First, it rejected a request by the ICRC -- International Committee of the Red Cross -- on Thursday to provide proof that Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is alive.

Saturday marks the fifth anniversary of Shalit's abduction by a Hamas-led Palestinian terror cell on June 25, 2005.

"The ICRC should have talked about the suffering of 7,000 Palestinian prisoners inside Israel," Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan said.

Secondly, Hamas responded to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks on Thursday at the Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu said he "decided to change Israel's policy toward terrorists sitting in Israeli jails," The Jerusalem Post reported.

The prime minister promised to reduce privileges for Palestinian prisoners serving time in Israeli jails for terror-related acts.

While vowing to uphold international law and convention, Netanyahu said "the "exaggeratedly good conditions in Israeli jails will end."

In addition to family visits, Palestinian prisoners can obtain academic degrees while doing time, which Netanyahu called an "absurd practice."

"The party's over," he said.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri claimed Netanyahu would violate international law if he revoked any of the prisoners' benefits. Zuhri also urged the nations of the world to act against the "crimes of the occupation."

Saturday marks five years that Shalit has been held without allowing the International Red Cross or his family to visit him. Weekend rallies are planned in front of the prime minister's home in Caesarea and the Kerem Shalom crossing near where Shalit was kidnapped.

Fatah's Statements

The Fatah-affiliated Palestinian Authority issued two statements of its own.

In an interview on Lebanese television aired earlier this week, Abbas said the Palestinians would forego plans to seek unilateral statehood in September if peace talks started. Some thought he inferred that he'd prefer negotiations to a unilateral declaration. 

But Thursday evening, the P.A. envoy to the U.N. Riyad Mansour said the plan would not be abandoned.

Mansour called construction in Israeli communities in the "West Bank" -- Judea and Samaria -- an "illegal unilateral act" and said the U.S. didn't ask Britain permission to declare statehood in 1776.

Fatah and Hamas recently formed a unity government after a four-year hiatus, but the traditionally rival factions have as yet been unable to agree on the makeup of the coalition.

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