Israel rejects long-term deal with Palestinians without Shalit

Hamas demands that Israel free up to 1,400 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the soldier, Gilad Shalit.

Israel rejects long-term deal with Palestinians without Shalit
Israel's security cabinet has voted to reject a long-term ceasefire deal with Palestinian fighters in Gaza until an Israeli soldier held captive is released.

Hamas demands that Israel free up to 1,400 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the soldier, Gilad Shalit.

The air, sea and land bombardment, which Israel launched, killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, destroyed some 5,000 homes and decimated most of Gaza's infrastructure, local officials said.

"No objection to Shalit's release"

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Hamas had no objection to Shalit's release if Israel met the demands on Palestinian prisoners. He laso said that Hamas would countenance no connection between Shalit and the proposed truce.

"There is no connection between the matter of Shalit and (achieving) calm," Barhoum said.

Palestinians says prisoners held by Israel are heroes of resistance against occupation.

"This is Israeli intransigence and a Zionist delay -- a continued laying of obstacles in front of the Egyptian efforts," Barhoum said after the security cabinet decision.

Olmert said on Tuesday he hoped to win Shalit's freedom before he left office but a new government that will be formed after last week's election might have to tackle the task.

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, had previously insisted that Shalit be released before any long-term ceasefire could be agreed.

Shalit was captured in June 2006 in a cross-border raid by Palestinian fighters.

"We will negotiate his release first, and only then will we be willing to discuss things like the Gaza crossings and rebuilding the the Strip," Olmert said during a tour of Jerusalem on Tuesday.

Israel imposed an economic blockade on Gaza, a small coastal territory that is home to 1.5 million Palestinians, after Hamas seized the control of the territory from their Fatah rivals in June 2007.

"Open crossings"

The blockade has caused widespread hardship in Gaza, particularly after the Israeli military offensive. Dire shortages of cement, glass and other building supplies make reconstruction virtually impossible until the borders reopen.

Reopening the border is the top priority of the Hamas government. Speaking at his headquarters in Syria, Hamas' exiled leader, Khaled Mashaal, complained about Olmert's conditions.

"There can be no truce unless the (Gaza) blockade is lifted and the crossings are opened. The truce issue should not be linked to the issue of prisoner Schalit," he said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Israeli warplanes struck a number of sites in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday, Palestinian residents said.

They said the Hamas base had already been largely reduced to rubble in previous air attacks, but this time a mosque left standing inside the compound was destroyed.

"Separate issues"

Turkish premier also said Wednesday Hamas rejected the inclusion of possible release of an Israeli prisoner in Egypt-mediated truce talks, demanding to negotiate the issue under a separate deal for prisoner swap.

"Hamas has refused to talk the release of the Israeli prisoner under truce negotiations, and it has offered to separate the truce and prisoner swap," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a press briefing after a meeting with visiting Croatian prime minister in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

Israel's outgoing prime minister linked on Saturday a long-term truce with the release of the Israeli prisoner, Gilad Schalit, who was seized in June 2006.

Last Mod: 18 Şubat 2009, 16:57
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