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Hamas prisoner exiled to Syria

March 31, 2010 6:38 P.M. (Updated: April 4, 2010 9:41 A.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma'an – The founder of Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades in the West Bank arrived in Damascus on Tuesday, following an agreement with Israeli officials last week to release him on the condition he be exiled.

Saleh Al-Aruri was freed from Israeli prison and forced into exile along with his wife and mother, according to Al-Qassam's Web site.

Jordanian officials refused to accept Al-Aruri two weeks ago, and the three were forced back into the West Bank until they received permission to travel to the Syrian capital, the site reported.

Al-Aruri spent 18 years in prison on charges of organizing resistance to the occupation of the West Bank.

Israel implementing Shalit deal?

Al-Aruri's name is among those detainees which Hamas demanded in exchange for a captured Israeli soldier, raising questions that Israel and Hamas had confidentially implemented the a deal.

Issa Qaraqe, the West Bank-based prisoners minister, told Ma'an that accepting the exile decision was unacceptable, if confirmed. "How can a prisoner exile himself?" he said, insisting that Fatah has refused a number of times the prospect of releasing someone to exile.

Qaraqe said that "approving the exile opens wide the door to implementing the occupation's policy of renewing their offers for the prisoners." These offers are nationally unacceptable, Qaraqe added, especially if the person is forced to exile himself.

Omar Abdul Razzaq, head of the Change and Reform bloc, said the decision was personal and not Hamas' official stance. He dismissed reports that the exile "has anything to do with the Shalit deal."
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