Hamas No 2: Israel to ease blockade

2011-10-18 16:35
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Hamas releases Israeli soldier Shalit

Gaza's Hamas Islamist rulers released captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on Tuesday in return for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

Rafah - The Hamas deputy chief said on Tuesday that Israel will ease its blockade of Gaza as part of a prisoners’ exchange and called for the remaining Palestinian prisoners to be freed.

Mussa Abu Marzuk, the deputy head of Hamas's Damascus-based leadership, told AFP on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing that the Islamist group "looked to further (exchange) deals" to free prisoners still in Israeli jails.

He told reporters that "Israel must realise it has to free our remaining prisoners. If they are not released normally, they will be released in other ways".

Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured in 2006, was released earlier on Tuesday by Hamas and transferred to Egypt which then handed him over to Israel. In return Israel released 477 Palestinian prisoners.

A second group of 550 prisoners is to be released in the coming two months although the names have yet to be decided.

Shalit's capture in a cross border raid prompted Israel to impose a blockade on Gaza which it intensified after Hamas seized the coastal enclave in 2007.

"It was included in the (prisoners’ exchange) agreement that measures taken after Shalit's capture will be lifted," Abu Marzuk told reporters when asked whether lifting the blockade was part of the agreement.

Shalit was a 19-year-old corporal on duty along the Gaza border when he was captured on June 25 2006 by militants from three Gaza-based groups, including Hamas.

Three days after Shalit was snatched, Israel launched a massive military operation against Gaza in a bid to secure his release, which lasted five months and left more than 400 Palestinians dead.

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Read more on:    hamas  |  gilad shalit  |  israel  |  gaza strip  |  middle east peace

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