ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (AP) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday his government has no intention of teaming up with Shiite militant group Hezbollah on negotiating the release of Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners held by Israel.
Israel launched attacks in Gaza after Palestinian Hamas-linked militants crossed from Gaza into Israel and snatched an Israeli soldier June 25. As that conflict raged, Hezbollah grabbed two soldiers in a July 12 cross-border raid, sparking Israel’s massive assault on Lebanon.
Hamas, the Islamic militant group that dominates the Palestinian government, had raised the possibility this week of teaming up with Hezbollah to negotiate terms to release of Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners in Israel in exchange for the three Israeli soldiers.
But Abbas said the situations were too different to coordinate a release.
“Our brothers in Lebanon have their own special case … and we have our special case,” he said following meetings in Alexandria with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. “This is a path and that is another path.” Abbas said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had been working with Mubarak in the Hamas case and suggested for the first time that Israel had indicated it would agree to release prisoners first in order to secure the freedom of the soldier being held.
“Olmert promised President Mubarak to release the Palestinian prisoners … the solution of the captive issue would not be simultaneous,” Abbas said. “The (Israeli) captive will be released in return for freeing a number of Palestinian prisoners with specified standards.” Abbas added the deal had to include an unspecified number of women, children, the sick, the elderly and people who have spent longer than 15 to 20 years in prison. “We don’t want the Israelis to do what they had done before … when they released 400 people, most of them had their sentences expired,” he said.
Earlier this month, Mubarak said he had “reached a solution” for the release of the Israeli soldier being held by militants linked to Hamas that had been accepted, but then scuttled by Hamas after it came under pressure from “other parties”, an apparent reference to Syria. At that time, Hamas had said the exchange of prisoners must be simultaneous.