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Palestinians say 'no guarantees' of Shalit's safety

RIA Novosti


DAMASCUS, January 10 (RIA Novosti) - The leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC) said on Sunday there were no guarantees of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit's safety.

The Israel Defense Forces soldier was seized in June 2006 by Palestinian militants while on patrol near the Gaza Strip.

"He is being held underground and can die," Ahmed Jibril said at a meeting of representatives of Damascus-based Palestinian militant groupings, adding "our Hamas brothers are not responsible for his life."

The group earlier pledged that an agreement on the exchange of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons could be reached by celebrations for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which begin on Friday and last for at least three days.

Germany and Egypt-mediated talks between Israel and Palestine on the exchange of Shalit for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons are underway. In late 2009, media reports said a swap deal, which stipulated the release of some 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons in exchange for Shalit, could be approved in the near future.

According to Jibril, Israel pledged to release all Palestinian women, leader of the Palestinian Tanzim grouping Marwan Barguti and leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Ahmad Saadat, in exchange for Shalit.

However, Jibril said, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to fulfill the original terms of the deal; therefore, he said, the Israeli authorities were responsible for Shalit's life.

In September, Israel released 20 Palestinian female prisoners in exchange for a video clip proving that Shalit was still alive.

The Gaza Strip has been the subject of an almost continuous Israeli blockade since Hamas took control of the enclave in the summer of 2007. The release of Shalit is a major precondition for the lifting of the blockade.

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