Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hamas: Israel pledged to lift Gaza blockade as part of Shalit swap deal

Mahmoud Zahar, member of Hamas' negotiating team in Shalit deal tells Haaretz Israel had agreed to lift blockade as part of deal in talks with a German mediator long ago.
Zahar, who will be one of the Hamas officials greeting the released prisoners on Tuesday, said there are several other issues the sides also agreed to as part of the deal. For one, families from Gaza will now be allowed to visit their relatives in Israeli prisons. Since Shalit's abduction, such family visits have been banned.

Additionally, in an attempt to increase pressure on Hamas to reach an agreement on freeing Shalit, Israel had stripped Palestinian prisoners of certain privileges and put many of their leaders into solitary confinement. These measures will now be reversed, Zahar said.

Finally, Israel agreed to ease the blockade on Gaza, Zahar said.

Israeli defense officials confirmed that the Shalit agreement marks a turning point in relations between Israel and Hamas. They said that various steps have already been taken to ease the blockade on Gaza in recent months, as part of the unofficial cease-fire between Hamas and Israel.
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