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Prisoner Exchange Deal to be Reached Soon- Official - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A Lebanese woman weeps as she sits in the rubble from Israeli missile strikes (AP)

A Lebanese woman weeps as she sits in the rubble from Israeli missile strikes (AP)

Gaza, Asharq Al-Awsat- Two Palestinians were killed and four injured in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip as a high-level Palestinian Government source told “Asharq al-Awsat” that Israel has expressed its willingness to release all the female and children prisoners in the occupation jails in exchange for the release of the Israeli soldier Gil’ad Shalit.

The source added that the Palestinian factions (responsible for) capturing the soldier are also insisting on the release of all the Palestinian prisoners who have spent a long time in jail simultaneously with Gil’ad’s release. Israel is rejecting this.

Palestinian sources spoke yesterday about the resumption of negotiations through Egyptian mediation to release the Israeli soldier and stop the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. But Sami Abu-Zahra, the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) spokesman, denied there are such negotiations.

The official, who spoke with Asharq al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said the Israeli Government expressed its willingness to release some prisoners after the release of the Israeli soldier but the armed factions rejected this and insisted on the release of all the women and children in Israeli jails in addition to giving international guarantees to release all the Palestinian prisoners serving long jail sentences simultaneously with Gil’ad’s release. He added that Israel is refusing to make concessions to the Palestinian resistance on this.

The Palestinian official pointed out that the Egyptian Government is making the biggest effort to mediate between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel in the kidnapped soldier’s case and stressed that Israeli and European parties are playing a role in this mediation. It stressed that the prisoners’ exchange deal being negotiated comes within the framework of a comprehensive deal for calm under which Israel stops its operations against the Palestinian resistance, specifically in the Gaza Strip, while the resistance movements stop the firing of rockets at Jewish settlements southwest of Israel. But there are difficulties impeding the resistance factions’ agreement on calm. Some of them are insisting on continuing to fire rockets. The official went on to say that some parties are presenting proposals for a comprehensive settlement based on reviving the peace process between Israel and the PA and lifting the blockade off the PA’s areas. He pointed out that there are Palestinian doubts about the possibility of starting such a settlement due to the differences in positions between Israel and the most flexible Palestinian parties on everything that concerns the permanent solution issues, which include the fate of (occupied Jerusalem), the settlements blocs, the refugees, the borders, and the state.

The official denied that there is a link between the Palestinian and Lebanese tracks in the negotiations over the prisoners and stressed that there is much difference between the prevailing conditions in Palestine and Lebanon.

Meanwhile, Rockets have hit near the Israeli city of Beit Shean, some 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the Lebanese border, the deepest strike into Israel since the start of the offensive on Hezbollah 22 days ago, public radio said.

It marked the first time that a Hezbollah rocket had hit what is considered Israel’s central region, the nation’s most populated area.

Previously, the deepest strike into Israeli territory hit the town of Afula, nearly 50 kilometers (nearly 30 miles) from the border.

One of the rockets struck near the Palestinian village Faqua in the northernmost West Bank, the radio said.

Witnesses in the West Bank city of Jenin told AFP that they saw at least one rocket slam into Maale Gilboa, a kibbutz just on the Israeli side of the border with the Palestinian territory.

The police and army did not immediately confirm the strike.

Israel was under an unprecedented barrage of rockets from Lebanon Wednesday, with 110 rockets slamming into the north of the country by 12:15 pm (0915 GMT).

So far, the most intensive day of rocket bombardment saw 156 salvoes fired at Israel in a single day.

Lebanese Red Cross ambulance worker peers from roof top of ambulance that was bombed at the Red Cross station in Tyre (R)

Lebanese Red Cross ambulance worker peers from roof top of ambulance that was bombed at the Red Cross station in Tyre (R)

Israeli soldiers return from the Lebanese village of Aita el Shaab (AFP)

Israeli soldiers return from the Lebanese village of Aita el Shaab (AFP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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