Rumors about imminent Israeli-Hamas prisoner swap deal are premature

Despite a spate of leaks this morning, all indications are, now, that the reports of an imminent prisoner swap involving a deal to free IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit — held somewhere in Gaza since late June 2006 — are completely premature.

One good source in Ramallah says maybe next week something will happen… An answer is awaited from Israel, he says.

There is still a debate over 125 to 150 of the 450 names that Hamas has submitted, in an exchange that is supposed to involve the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Hamas has not specified the names of the other 550 prisoners who must be released. Israel can decide who they will be — out of the more-than-6000 prisoners Israel is holding — but they must be in categories chosen by Hamas, such as children, oldest or longest-held prisoners, and women etc.

Of the 125 or 150 names under active debate, a “small number” (it is not clear if it would be as many as 40) will probably be deported.

Hamas is trying to limit the number of those to be deported, but it apparently agrees in principle — even though deportation [carried out by Israel] is a specific violation of Phase One of the Road Map.

In this case, it is very convenient that Hamas is not yet a member of the PLO and not bound by its prior agreements, so it is not bound by the Road Map…

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