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Middle East

Olmert says no deal with Hamas unless Shalit released

Article published on the 2009-02-14 Latest update 2009-02-14 16:37 TU

Israeli protesters with a poster of captured Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser (R), Eldad Regev (C) and Gilad Shalit (L) during a demonstration last year(Photo: Reuters)

Israeli protesters with a poster of captured Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser (R), Eldad Regev (C) and Gilad Shalit (L) during a demonstration last year
(Photo: Reuters)

Israel will not agree a truce with Hamas unless Franco-Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is freed, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced on Saturday. Hamas officials on Saturday accused Israel of "backtracking" on a possible 18-month truce, which the Islamic movement said it was ready to accept on Friday.

"The position of the Prime Minister is that Israel won't reach any arrangement on a truce before the release of Gilad Shalit," Olmert's office said.

Shalit was captured by three Palestinian groups in a cross-border raid in 2006. Hamas insists that his release be negotiated as part of a separate exchange for some of the hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Earlier on Saturday, Hamas representative Fawzi Barhum accused Israel of "backtracking" on Egyptian-brokered proposals for an 18-month truce which the Islamic movement said it was ready to accept on Friday.

Israel is now insisting on a long-term and open-ended truce, he said.

Both sides are now observing unnegotiated truces that they declared unilaterally.

The Israeli army on Saturday said that a rocket had been fired from Gaza and hit the seaside town of Ashdod.

Over 40 rockets and mortar rounds have been fired from Gaza since the end of the Israeli offensive, while Israel has carried out several air strikes on the territory.