Hamas prepares to welcome prisoners

Oct. 15, 2011 at 11:11 AM

GAZA, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- While Hamas begins preparations to welcome released Palestinian prisoners to Gaza, Ynetnews says new demands by the group might delay the exchange.

The Israeli news agency, citing Palestinian sources, reported Saturday Hamas now says all female prisoners held by Israel must be included in the exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israel has agreed to free 1,000 men in two stages and 27 women, leaving three women still in prison.

Workers began building a stage Friday in Brigades Park in Gaza City for a celebration of the first releases, The New York Times reported. Leaders described the agreement as a big victory.

"We are living through huge happiness and an historic victory, despite the fact that we are still under occupation and under siege and that thousands of our prisoners are still inside occupation Zionist jails," Ismail Haniya, the Hamas prime minister, said in a sermon Friday in a mosque next to the park.

Haniya said Israel will hand over the first prisoners coming to Gaza Tuesday at the Rafah crossing point.

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