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Middle east

Netanyahu says Israel is ready for Shalit prisoner swap

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-07-01

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he was prepared to free 1,000 prisoners in exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, but would not pay "an unlimited price" for his release. Shalit was captured by Hamas four years ago.

REUTERS - Israel would set free 1,000 Palestinian prisoners if the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas releases Gilad Shalit, the soldier its militants captured four years ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.

In a live address to the country, Netanyahu said all Israelis wanted Shalit back safely but the nation could not "pay any price" because past experience showed that many Palestinians released had returned to carry out attacks on Israelis.
"The German mediator's offer which we agreed to accept called for the release of 1,000 terrorists. This is the price I am prepared to pay to bring Gilad home. I said yes to the deal and it is ready for immediate implementation," Netanyahu said.
He was referring to a moment last December when a deal and a prisoner exchange appeared imminent but in the end never came about. Media reports at the time spoke of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit, although there was never official confirmation from the Israeli side.
"But there are prices that I am not prepared to pay and they are not included in this difficult deal," Netanyahu said.
"I am steadfast on two basic principles: the first principle is that dangerous terrorists will not return to the areas of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) from where they can continue to harm Israel's citizens."
They could go to Tunisia or the Gaza Strip or any other place, but not to the West Bank because this would afford them access to Israeli cities.
The second sticking point was "top terrorists". They would not be freed, Netanyahu said.
Shalit was abducted in a Hamas raid on Israel forces on the edge of the Gaza Strip in 2006 and is believed to be held somewhere in the coastal enclave.
In a campaign to pile pressure on the government to negotiate their son's release, the Shalit family on Sunday began a march on Jerusalem with their supporters and said they would camp outside the prime minister's office until Shalit came home.
Israeli television said Hamas had quickly dismissed Netanyahu's offer as nothing new.


Date created : 2010-07-01


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