02/13/2009, 00.00
ISRAEL – PALESTINE
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Hamas announces 18-month truce with Israel

The agreement should become official in a few days. Israel has yet to release any official comment. The fate of captured Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit remains a stumbling block. Hamas would like to exchange him for a thousand Palestinian prisoners.

Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Hamas has accepted an 18-month truce with Israel in exchange for the re-opening of six border crossings with the Jewish state. The announcement should be made within 48 hours in Cairo, said Moussa Abu Marzouk, a deputy leader of the Islamic Movement (pictured) who led the negotiations. Egyptian sources talk about three days.

“We have agreed to the truce with the Israeli side for one year and a half [in return] for the opening of all six passages between the Gaza Strip and Israel, and the halting of all military activity and aggression,” he was quoted as saying by the Egyptian state news agency Mena.

Marzouk, who lives in Damascus, added that the announcement will be made by the Egyptians after other Palestinian factions and the Israelis are consulted.

The Israeli government has not yet commented on the matter.  The Jerusalem Post said that government officials are still working on the truce and the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier in Hamas’ hands.

Israeli negotiator Amos Gilad is expected back in Cairo tomorrow evening.

However, according to Marzouk, Corporal Shalit’s release is not part of any deal, whereas Israeli sources insist that the soldier’s fate, captured by Hamas in 2006, remains in the picture.

For the Hamas official, “we want the liberation of our prisoners in exchange of that of the soldier.” A list of prisoners is already in Egyptian hands.

Hamas, according to pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, quoting Palestinian sources, has a list of 1,000 prisoners it wants for Shalit, who could be freed by next Wednesday.

Egyptian security chief  Omar Suleiman, who negotiated the truce, told Egyptian daily  Al-Ahram, that the Israelis will not allow steel, cement and aluminium into Gaza until Shalit was released.

According to Suleiman negotiations are underway to determine the names of Palestinian prisoners to be let go. He said that he rejected an Israeli proposal that would move all the freed prisoners to Gaza even if they are from the West Bank.

Egyptian sources said that once this agreement is made, intra-Palestinian talks would start to end internal divisions.

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