The Palestinian Hamas movement said today it will freeze talks on freeing a captive Israeli soldier until Egypt, which is mediating the prisoner swap with Israel, releases a Hamas fighter it is holding.
"We put the case of Gilad Shalit in the refrigerator and it will remain frozen until Ayman Nofal is released from the Egyptian jail," said Yousef Farhat, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip.
Nofal was arrested in Egypt in January after Hamas fighters used bombs to make breaches in the border wall between the Hamas- controlled Gaza Strip and Egypt. At the time, hundreds of thousands of Gazans crossed into the Sinai freely.
Shalit, an Israeli corporal, was kidnapped in June 2006. Hamas has demanded the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel in exchange for his release.
But Farhat said his organization will not speak about a prisoner swap with Israel "while Nofal is staying at the Egyptian prisons."
Recently, Hamas had suspended talks on releasing Shalit in order to press Israel to abide by an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
A few days later, Hamas offered to resume the talks on Shalit. However, its armed wing complained about the offer due to Nofal’s imprisonment.
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