Hamas leader: Netanyahu delays Shalit deal

March 7, 2010 at 11:44 AM

JERUSALEM, March 7 (UPI) -- The former leader of Hamas' military wing in Gaza says Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is holding up a deal to free kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

Abdullah Barghouti Sunday accused Netanyahu of attempting to derail a prisoner exchange that would Shalit, a sergeant in the Israeli army, Haaretz reported.

Barghouti, who is serving 67 life sentences, was convicted in 2003 of planning terror attacks that killed 66 Israelis and injured hundreds more, including the attack on a Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem. But Barghouti said he will continue to fight as long as Israel occupies Palestinian territory, the report said.

His comments came at a hearing on extending his solitary confinement.

Barghouti has been mentioned as one of the senior Hamas officials who may be released by Israel as part of an exchange for Shalit, Haaretz reported.

Some of Barghouti's comments were directed at the Shalit family: "I am telling his family that his condition is good. He has food, he has a room and we are not mistreating our prisoner."

Shalit, 23, was captured by Palestinian militants in a cross-border raid in 2006.

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