Hamas denies that release of Israeli soldier is "imminent"

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hamas has denied claims made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, 19, captured on June 25, will be released.

"Nothing has changed in the case of the Israeli soldier. The file remains in the hands of the resistance factions and not in the hands of any politician even if that politician is Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas]. We heard this news from the press and our stance remains as it was: The case is in the hands of resistance fighters," said spokesman for the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, Abu Ubaida.

Ubaida also said that handing over the soldier doesn't come "free. No politician dares to demand handing the soldier over without a return."

Abbas was quoted as saying earlier in a press conference, held in Rome, by an Italian translator that talks were leading to an "imminent solution" that would allow for the release of the soldier. "With regards to the issue of the abducted Israeli soldier, I have reiterated that there are ongoing efforts that lead us to believe in an imminent solution. I hope that the soldier is in good health and can soon return to his family," said Abbas, according to the official Italian translator.

However; the Associated press quoted Abbas as saying that "intense negotiations" were taking place.