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Prisoner release great defeat for Hamas rivals

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Prisoner release great defeat for Hamas rivals


The Palestinian president has held centre stage for some time with his United Nations statehood application.

Now Hamas is crying victory with what it claims is the bargain of the century – 1,027 prisoners, 60% of them Hamas loyalists, freed after years of negotiations for the life of just one Israeli.

At a stroke it sends a message that results can be obtained by violent means; a message aimed from Gaza at Mahmoud Abbas, who for all his stirring words in New York appears destined to gain very little with his diplomatic push.

More pressure on Abbas, and on the international Quartet that has called for October 26 meetings with both sides to restart peace talks, comes from near Jerusalem.

Says the Palestinian Authority’s Ghassan al-Khatib: “The latest Israeli announcement about new settlement units in occupied Bethlehem is to emphasize that Israel insists on challenging the international community and the quartet which asked to resume negotiations on the basis of ceasing settlement building.”

Israeli activists Peace Now claim that plans were approved this week to build a new settlement of 2,600 homes in the Arab east of the city, the first of its kind since the 1990s.

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