The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas stated Sunday that the
Palestinian Authority (PA) is asking for the release of Fatah party
leader Marwan Barghouti, imprisoned by Israel since July 2004, and
Palestinian Liberation Front Secretary-General Ahmed Saadat, seized in
May in an Israeli raid on a PA prison in Jericho, as part of an
agreement to release the Israeli soldier captured June 25th by
Palestinian resistance fighters in Gaza.

Marwan Barghouti is the founder of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah party, which has carried out armed attacks against the Israeli occupation since the current intifada began in 2000.  Saadat is head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a party that is illegal according to the occupying Israeli authorities.


In his statement, made on the Arab satellite channel, the President confirmed that negotiations are taking place, and that the Egyptian government is acting as the chief arbitrator of the prisoner swap.

Israeli sources have stated that there is no way that either of the high-profile political prisoners, Marwan Barghouti or Ahmed Saadat, would be part of a prisoner swap deal.  An Israeli official in the Prime Minister’s Office said in response to Abbas’ demand that, "He can forget about it.”

On the Palestinian side, the spokesman for the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, stated that it is too soon to say that a prisoner-swap deal is imminent, denying rumors that a deal has already been reached.  Abu Obeida, spokesman for the group, said, “The reports surrounding the deal are baseless."

Meanwhile, the Palestinian President said that the Palestinian Authority is involved in daily consultations with the Egyptian mediators, and that he regards Egypt as a 'big brother' to the occupied Palestinian territories.

He said, “We consider Egypt a big brother that wants the best for us and grants us all we need on a local, regional and international level. There are also consultations with Jordan, Saudi Arabia and northern African countries.”