Mideast prisoner swap 'not dead'

 

A spokesman for Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert says attempts to win the release of a captured Israeli soldier have not stopped despite strong signals from Mr Olmert that no deal was likely during his last days in office.

 

 

Mark Regev says Israel is still trying to strike a deal on a prisoner swap with Hamas. He provided no further details Sunday.

Mr Olmert is set to leave office within two weeks. After a recent round of talks failed, he indicated he was turning the matter over to his successor, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The head of Hamas' government in the Gaza Strip also says a deal is still possible. Ismail Haniyeh wrote in a Hamas newspaper Sunday that the group's representatives are "still trying" to renew the Egyptian-sponsored talks.

Israeli troops detained 10 Hamas politicians from the occupied West Bank on Thursday in what Palestinians called a punitive round-up following Israel's failure to retrieve Gilad Shalit.

The West Bank detainees included four Hamas politicians, three of whom already served time in Israeli custody after Shalit's capture, the Islamist faction said.

"These arrests are an angry reaction by Israel because of the failure of the Shalit deal," said Mahmoud Musleh, another Hamas politician. "This won't do Israel any good."

The Israeli military said the 10 politicians "were taken in for questioning".

"These men have been the leaders of the ongoing effort to restore the administrative branch of the Hamas terror organisation in the region, while attempting to strengthen the power and influence of Hamas," it said in a statement. Asked if the detentions could be connected to Shalit, a military spokesman said: "I have no indication of that."

Israel has been accused of committing war crimes during its recent war on Gaza and is facing a mounting international effort to prosecute Israeli officials and soldiers for alleged violations.

It emerged this week that Israeli soldiers have provided the most damning indictment yet of the army’s conduct during the recent Gaza war, claiming they committed serious abuses against civilians, including the shooting of unarmed women and children.