Hamas announced that West Bank Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti will be at the top of the list of Palestinian prisoners to be freed in exchange for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. According to the report in the London-based Arabic language newspaper al-Hayat, Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal told Barghouti’s wife that the kidnapped soldier will not be freed without her husband’s release.
Barghouti has been jailed in Israel since June 2004 having been sentenced to five life sentences for five murders and 40 years imprisonment for attempted murder, all terror-related. He was acquitted of 21 counts of murder in 33 other attacks.
The Hamas movement is demanding that Israel release 1,400 prisoners in three stages as part of the deal. The first stage will include the release of 400 women and youths jailed in Israel, and Hamas will simultaneously transfer Shalit to Egypt. In the second stage Israel will release 500 Palestinian prisoners, and Shalit will simultaneously be transferred to Israel. In the third stage Israel will release another 500 prisoners.
Also reported in al-Hayat was that during the talks between Israeli officials and Barghouti’s aides it turned out that most Israeli government ministers do not oppose his release. Palestinian Authority officials have therefore concluded that Israel’s principle not to release prisoners “with blood on their hands” has been broken.