Hamas Expects Prisoners to be Released by Palestinian Authority
The Palestinian Hamas movement said Thursday it expects Palestinian President Yasser Arafat to free a group of its members from jail.
"There is talk of a new release of Hamas members from the prisons of the (Palestinian) Authority," Hamas spokesman Ismail Abu Shanab told AFP in Gaza City.
Abu Shanab was one of three Hamas officials who visited on Wednesday Israel's formerly most-wanted man, Mohammed Deif, who was captured by Palestinian security forces in May.
It was the first direct contact Hamas members have had with Deif, the right-hand man of Abu Ayash, the late former leader of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), who Israel suspected of being behind numerous anti-Israeli attacks.
Hamas is violently opposed to the 1993 Oslo Accord between Israel and Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization and has killed or injured scores of Israelis since then, often striking at critical moments in the peace process.
Deif became the number one of the Hamas military wing, the Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigade, after Ayash was killed by a booby-trapped mobile phone in 1996 in an Israel-orchestrated operation.
Deif went into hiding in 1996 following a string of suicide bombings by Hamas that Israelis suspect he masterminded.
Abu Shanab did not provide details about the number of prisoners he expects to be released.
There are currently around 70 Hamas members jailed by the Palestinian Authority, compared with some 150 less than a year ago, according to Hamas.
"We keep open channels of communication with the Palestinian security services. That is our strategy to avoid internal strife," said Abu Shanab, spokesman of the largest Palestinian group opposed to Arafat.
Abu Shanab said Deif's health and general condition was good - GAZA CITY (AFP)
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