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Updated: February 2, 2010 19:31 IST

Hamas halts prisoner-swap deal talks with Israel

DPA
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Palestinian women hold pictures of Palestinian prisoners who they say are jailed in Israel, during a weekly protest calling for their release, outside the International Red Cross building in Gaza City, on Monday. Photo: AP.
Palestinian women hold pictures of Palestinian prisoners who they say are jailed in Israel, during a weekly protest calling for their release, outside the International Red Cross building in Gaza City, on Monday. Photo: AP.

The indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas on a prisoner exchange have been halted, officials in the Islamist movement ruling Gaza said on Tuesday.

“The current circumstances do not allow a continuation of the indirect talks to finalize a prisoner swap deal,” said spokesman Aiman Taha.

He said Hamas was halting the talks following the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, “but we cannot say that the talks have completely stopped. The movement will later make a final decision.” Al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas official who Israel said was involved in the smuggling of weapons into Gaza, was found dead in a Dubai hotel room on January 20.

Hamas has accused Israel of being behind his death.

Hamas and two other armed groups snatched an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in a raid on an Israeli army base southeast of the Gaza Strip in June 2006.

Shalit’s captors demand the release of some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in exchange for for Shalit.

Negotiations on the exchange accelerated after a German mediator became involved last summer, and were reportedly close to a breakthrough before Christmas.

However, since then they have again stalled.

Another senior Hamas official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also told the Saudi daily Okaz that Hamas decided to suspend the indirect talks in protest to the murder of al-Mabhouh.

The official told the daily that “Israel is fully responsible for the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh ... Therefore Hamas decided to halt the indirect talks.”

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