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Hamas rejects Israeli offer of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Shalit

NetanyahuBenjaminu_optBY ROBERT BERGER
VOA NEWS

JERUSALEM — Palestinian militants have rejected a new Israeli offer for a prisoner exchange.

The Islamic militant group Hamas has declined Israel's latest offer for a lopsided prisoner swap: 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the offer to mark the fourth anniversary of the soldier's captivity in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

But Mr. Netanyahu ruled out releasing dozens of top militants responsible for the deadliest terrorist attacks, describing them as "mass murderers." He said releasing such prisoners in the past led to new waves of terror.

Hamas responded that there will be no deal until Israel meet its demands and frees all the prisoners on the list.

Hamas official Ayman Taha said Mr. Netanyahu and his government are facing mounting public pressure to free Shalit, and the new offer is an attempt to shift blame on Hamas.

He was referring to a 12-day march to Jerusalem by the captive soldier's family, aimed at pressing the government for a prisoner swap. Noam Shalit, the soldier's father, accused the prime minister of using scare tactics.

He said the Israeli army and intelligence services are more than capable of dealing with the threat posed by releasing terrorists.

Israel has carried out lopsided prisoner swaps in the past, but Prime Minister Netanyahu said he will not repeat the same mistakes.

"The state of Israel is prepared to pay a heavy price to win the release of Gilad Shalit," he said, "but that does not mean, any price."

 

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