Israel taking steps in prisoner exchange

July 9, 2007 at 2:37 PM
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ASHKELON, Israel, July 9 (UPI) -- The Israeli government began taking steps Monday towards a prisoner exchange with Hamas with a secret meeting with convicted killer Marwan Barghouti.

Former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh secretly met with Barghouti Monday, one day after the prisoner's wife said Israel would be exchanging him for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Ynetnews.com reported.

A former commander of a Fatah militant faction, Barghouti is currently serving five life sentences at Israeli's Hadarim Prison for killing numerous Israeli citizens.

Sneh initiated the secret meeting with the convict and the pair reportedly discussed the current situation in the Palestinian Authority.

A recent report said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wants Barghouti to be included in any planned prisoner exchange for Shalit.

Sources close to those exchange talks told Ynetnews.com that Abbas wants to use Barghouti's release to strengthen his stance in the West Bank and increase Fatah's standing in the region.

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