NEWS: Hamas no compromise on prisoners; Fatah’s popularity falling

Meshal: No compromise on terms for Shalit deal

The exiled leader of the militant Palestinian Hamas group said Friday that Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, captured by Hamas-linked militants in a cross-border raid in June 2006, will not be released without the freedom of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

“The matter of the prisoners bloodies our heart,” Khaled Meshal said, indicating that it was a painful topic, and added that Gilad Shalit will not be released “unless our prisoners are released.” He did not give further details.

Meshal also said that Hamas rejected a European offer for an indirect meeting with Israel to discuss a possible truce, adding that the Palestinian people have no choice other than resistance. Speaking at a rally in Damascus marking Hamas’ 20th anniversary, Khaled Meshal also called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to hold unconditional talks with Hamas. [complete article]

Poll: Fatah losing support among West Bank, Gaza Palestinians

Despite international political and financial support, the popularity of the Fatah faction headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has declined over the past month, partially because of mistrust in the group’s leaders, according to a poll published Friday.

Fatah still commands a strong lead over the Islamic militant Hamas group that controls Gaza, with 39 percent of Palestinians trusting it, as opposed to 16 percent backing for Hamas. But in November, 46 percent of those surveyed for a similar poll favored Fatah, and 13 percent backed Hamas.

Forty-one percent of those polled said they didn’t trust either faction, up from 32 percent in November. The telephone poll, conducted in late December by Near East Consulting, interviewed 959 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. It had a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points. [complete article]

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