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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hamas leader: Israel threatens to kill freed prisoners to boost public

Published Sunday 23/10/2011 (updated) 24/10/2011 11:16
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Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahhar (MaanImages/Wissam Nassar, File)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli government threats to assassinate prisoners freed under an exchange deal with Hamas are an attempt to satisfy their public, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahhar told reporters on Sunday.

The senior Hamas figure downplayed Israel's intention to extend its tactic of targeted killings to the prisoners released in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israel is "making these threats in an attempt to lighten the heavy price they paid" for agreeing to free over 1,000 Palestinians detained in Israeli jails for Shalit.

The deal, which in its first stage saw Shalit return to Israel and 477 Palestinians freed on Tuesday, was broadly supported by the Israeli public but provoked fierce debate over the release of those jailed for attacks on Israelis.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that if any of the freed prisoners return to terrorism, they "do so at their own risk," Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post reported.

Zahhar said such statements show "how desperate (Israel) felt in the face of the Palestinian resistance's accomplishment in forcing (the government) to yield to the conditions" set out by the Hamas negotiators for the exchange.

He warned Israel that resistance fighters are able to respond "promptly and appropriately" to any attempt to harm the freed prisoners.

On Saturday, deputy commander Hamas's armed wing Ahmed Jabari said his al-Qassam brigades would continue plans to capture Israeli soldiers "until all Palestinian prisoners were freed from Israeli occupation jails," Hamas-affiliated news site Palestine Information Center reported.

According to latest estimates, around 5,000 Palestinian prisoners will remain in Israeli jails after the second phase of the deal frees 550 more prisoners within two months.

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