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Haniyeh urges conference for jailed Palestinians

Jan. 25, 2010 10:17 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 26, 2010 9:41 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma'an – De facto Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said on Monday that his government would make this year "the year of the detainees," calling for an international conference in Gaza to discuss the issue.

Israel imprisons around 10,000 Palestinians, most of whom are held outside the occupied territories.

Haniyeh called for increased efforts to show solidarity with Palestinian prisoners, speaking at an event honoring Gaza Detainees Minister Muhammad Faraj Al-Ghoul at the Prime Minister's Office in Gaza City.

The prisoners issue is very important to all Palestinians, Haniyeh said. "They are always in our minds, even if they are absent. They remain loyal because they sacrificed their lives for the homeland," he said.

Al-Ghoul followed by saying "the detainees issue is an essential one, and we always work hard to ease their suffering and their parents' suffering, as well."

The remarks came as the parents of captured soldier Gilad Shalit were to meet with envoy Hagai Hadas to discuss recent developments in talks for their son’s potential release, Israeli media reported on Monday.

The Shalits were to meet Hadas in Tel Aviv, according to the Israeli daily Yedioth Aheronot, for a series of meetings between the three, where it is expected that Shalit’s parents will ask for clarification on recent points of discussion in the stalled prisoner swap deal.

Last Wednesday, Haniyeh said that "Israel has backtracked on its understandings [of the conditions] being offered by the German middleman and Egypt is up to date on these developments.

"Any new developments with the negotiations will not carry anything but illusions for the Palestinians and will not bring about any improvement concerning Palestinian rights."

Meanwhile, Hamas has rejected an offer put forward by Netanyahu which would grant the release of certain prisoners into exile in Gaza or abroad.

Talks remain at an impasse as both sides accuse each other of failing to cooperate to achieve the release of Shalit and possibly hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

Shalit was captured by Palestinian factions in a cross-border raid in 2006, and has been held ever since. His captors have negotiated indirectly with Israel in an effort to free hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails.
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