Hamas would like to continue negotiations with Israel on a prisoner exchange deal to free captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, Al-Jazeera quoted senior Hamas leader Izzat Rishek as saying Wednesday.
Rishek denied a Tuesday report by the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya network that claimed that the movement's leadership has rejected the latest offer presented by a German mediator.
Although he refused to give details on the Israeli proposal, Rishek said, "Hamas will continue with contacts via the German mediator, in the hope that we can come to a deal for the release of Palestinian prisoners from all factions," Xinhua reports.
It was also reported, Israel and Hamas have been holding indirect talks through Egypt and Germany on a prisoners swap that will exchange around 1,000 Palestinian and Arab prisoners for Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Gaza militants in a cross-border raid in June 2006.
Under Egyptian-German mediation efforts, Hamas movement released in early October a video tape of Shalit, showing that he was in good health; while Israel freed 20 women Palestinian prisoners as goodwill gestures to establish serious talks to the final deal.
The two sides are intensifying the negotiation to finalize the prisoners swap. Deposed Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haneya said in late December that deal was coming soon, Jerusalem Post reports.
News agencies also report, a Hamas source close to the talks said the German mediator who has been shuttling between the sides will begin a new round of negotiations next week.
Palestinian officials have said Israel and Hamas have not agreed on a final list of prisoners to be released, including the fate of about 20 Palestinians who were convicted of deadly attacks on Israelis, and which prisoners will be deported.
Shalit, now 23, was seized by militants who tunnelled into Israel from the Gaza Strip in a raid in 2006, Reuters reports.
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