Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas personally intervened to foil a prisoner deal between Hamas and Israel last June, a prominent Hamas official said on Saturday.
“We were very close to striking a deal that would have resulted in the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit,” said Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas legislator and spokesman.
“But Abbas personally intervened to prevent the prisoner exchange because he was opposed to the release of Hamas legislators and officials from Israeli prison.”
Masri said Abbas was afraid that the release of the Hamas figures would undermine his authority and revive the debate about his legitimacy as president of the PA, particularly since his term in office expired at the beginning of this year.
The Hamas official said that the US also intervened to thwart an imminent prisoner exchange agreement out of fear that such a move would boost the Islamist movement’s standing among Palestinians.