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Israel passes demands in prisoner swap to Hamas

Gaza Strip

Israel negotiates for prisoner swap

Israel delivered its counter-demands Tuesday for a deal with Hamas to exchange about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Israeli Sgt. Gilad Schalit, who has been held captive by Gaza militants for more than three years, but last-minute differences over who should be freed or sent into exile threatened to imperil the deal. Israel insists on expelling some West Bank-born prisoners to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip or abroad and balks at releasing some inmates high on the Hamas wish list, said a senior Hamas official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a group of students that returning Schalit was a "top priority" — but "not at any price," a reference to Palestinian prisoners convicted of bloody attacks. Israeli media said the deal could take days or weeks to complete. The Hamas official said a deal is not imminent. Clinching the deal for Schalit's release might win points for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but a large-scale release could also hurt his standing among Israelis who feel releasing prisoners convicted of violence could encourage militants to take more hostages.

Elsewhere

Weapons flight: The flight plan for an aircraft seized in Thailand with 35 tons of illicit North Korean weapons shows that the plane was headed to Iran, according to a report on the flight plan from the nonprofit groups TransArms in the United States and IPIS of Belgium. The report was funded by the Belgian government and Amnesty International and could not be independently verified.

Russian arms: Russia will sell a record $8.5 billion worth of weapons this year, according to Mikhail Dmitriyev, the head of a Russian government agency in charge of arms trade, making it a close second to the United States in volume of global arms sales in recent years.

Colombia: Caqueta state Gov. Luis Francisco Cuellar was found dead Tuesday, Colombian authorities said, less than a day after he was abducted from his home by suspected leftist guerrillas. Ten assailants, dressed in army uniforms and identified by the government as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, seized Cuellar, 69, in his residence.

Saudi border fighting: Saudi Arabia said Tuesday that 73 Saudis have been killed and 26 are missing since the kingdom launched an offensive against Yemeni Shiite rebels last month. The rebels, known as Hawthis, have alleged dozens of civilian deaths in Saudi air assaults.

Times wires

Israel passes demands in prisoner swap to Hamas 12/22/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 22, 2009 10:16pm]

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