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Tags: Israel | soldier | price | captive

Israel Will Not Pay 'Any Price' For Captive Soldier

Tuesday, 22 December 2009 10:50 AM EST

JERUSALEM - A senior Hamas official has confirmed receipt of Israel's response to the group's proposed prisoner exchange that would see the release of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Schalit for some 1,000 Palestinian terrorists.

The official spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release details of the talks.

Hamas is scheduled to hold its weekly meeting later Tuesday, and the deal is likely to be on the agenda.

After Israel apparently did not accept Hamas's proposed prisoner swap in full, and relayed its answer to the terror group through the German mediator, Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday stressed Israel's responsibility to bring Schalit home, albeit not at any price.

Barak's comments followed the inner cabinet meeting Monday night for final marathon discussions, and while speaking about the state's obligation to the soldier, he kept mum on details of the Israeli response.

"We are intensively formulating the correct way to promote the Schalit topic," Barak told high school students in Rishon Lezion. "This is a sensitive time and it would be wrong to expound upon the topic, but we, as those who sent Gilad, feel a responsibility… to make every feasible and worthy move to bring Gilad home, though not at any price."

Barak, who is a member of the inner cabinet, responded to criticism leveled at the potential price Israel would pay by releasing hundreds of convicted killers for one Israeli soldier.

"As far as prisoner exchanges go, we are on a slippery slope, from the Jibril deal to [the exchange for Elhanan] Tannenbaum, and there is no choice but to brake," he told a student. "It is clear to all, within the inner cabinet as well as among the general public, that the modes of action regarding prisoner changes must change."

After the nocturnal inner cabinet meeting ended overnight Monday, reports began emerging that the seven-member forum had reached its decision. Israel Radio cited an unnamed senior Israeli official as confirming one such report.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian close to the negotiations said the German mediator carrying a proposal approved by Hamas had also set a Wednesday deadline for Israeli action. The Palestinian, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said there would be no further negotiations.

Former Fatah-Tanzim leader and terrorist Marwan Barghouti, who is serving multiple life sentences after being convicted in fatal attacks against Israelis, would be allowed to return to his West Bank home, a Palestinian close to the negotiations said. Hamas agreed that several other hard-core convicts would be deported, he said.

An official familiar with the talks told the Reuters news agency Tuesday that Hamas would not lessen its demands upon receiving Israel's latest response. He added that any agreement would have to be approved by the terrorist organization's leadership in Damascus.

According to the Prime Minister's Office, the inner cabinet has given Israeli mediator Hagai Hadas a "green light" to continue negotiations with Hamas over a deal to secure Schalit's release.

After more than four hours of talks, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's office released a statement early Tuesday morning saying only that instructions were given to the negotiating team about "the continuation of efforts to bring Gilad Schalit home safe and sound." There was no word of a decision, further meetings or steps. The decision to continue negotiations came in lieu of any final decision by the government to agree unequivocally to Hamas's demands.

© Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009 10:50 AM
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