Thursday, January 18, 2007

Kidnapped Shalit Caught in a PA Power Struggle

Original article on:
08:36 Jan 18, '07 / 28 Tevet 5767
by Hana Levi Julian

IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit [pictured] has become a pawn in the power struggle between the Fatah and Hamas factions, charges a third terrorist group, which participated in his capture last June.

The Army of Islam said in a statement Wednesday that Shalit is in Hamas’ sole custody at present, adding that the group led by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is using the hostage in its bid to retain control of the government.

Israel has agreed several times to a prisoner swap deal brokered by Egyptian intelligence officials with Shalit’s captors, only to have it called off at the last minute by Hamas.

The primary bone of contention between Israel and Hamas rests on the issue of which prisoners to release and how the swap for Shalit will be handled. Israel wants Shalit freed before it hands over the terrorist prisoners, and Hamas is refusing to do so. Hamas has also demanded the release of prisoners which Israel has said it will never free, due to their long-time status and the severity of their crimes.

“The issue of the captured soldier has become a political case for the sake of narrow factional interests,” read the statement. “Muslims are being prevented from gaining their freedom because of Fatah and because of Hamas.”

Army of Islam terrorists contend that when Shalit was captured last year, an agreement had been made between the three groups involved in the raid that there would be no movement on the soldier’s fate – toward freedom or death – while there was still a chance the Israelis would come through with a prisoner swap.

Now the group says both Hamas, and the Fatah faction headed by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), are using the issue of the offer by Israel to fight each other, rather than focus on freeing PA prisoners.

“Either Fatah uses it to get at Hamas, or Hamas uses it to get at Fatah,” accused the third terrorist group, which urged that Hamas allow the PA Prisoner Affairs Minister the authority to make the decisions and bring the parley to an end.

After numerous meetings between the two factions failed to produce a coalition unity government in the PA, Abbas finally announced last month that he was calling for new elections. Abbas' announcement reignited the bloody street battles between Fatah and Hamas terrorists that began almost a year ago, after Hamas won control of the PA government in a landslide.

As the internal PA violence intensifies, once again people on both sides of the Gaza border speculate whether “this time” the PA will break apart in an outright civil war.

Some 30 PA residents have been killed in the fighting since the new elections were announced, and Shalit remains in captivity.



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