Jerusalem: A top Israeli official has denied
that influential Palestinian leader Marwan Barghuti, jailed for his role in the second intifada, would be freed in return
for the release of Gilad Shalit.
Yoram Cohen, head of the Shin Bet internal intelligence
service, said yesterday that neither Barghuti nor Ahmad
Saadat, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine, were among those to be freed under a swap deal to
secure the release of the soldier who has been captive in Gaza
for more than five years.
"Ahmed Saadat, Marwan Barghuti... are not going to be
released," he told reporters in Jerusalem.
His remarks were made shortly after a senior Palestinian
official in the West Bank city of Ramallah said that both
men would be freed under the surprise deal which was announced
by Israeli and Hamas leaders late yesterday.
"The information that we have confirms that Marwan and
Ahmed will be released in the deal," the official said on
condition of anonymity.
Barghuti, who is serving five life terms for his role in
several deadly anti-Israeli attacks, is largely considered to
be the architect of the second intifada and is hugely popular
among the Palestinian public.
Saadat, who heads the leftist PFLP, is serving 30 years
in jail for heading a "terrorist organisation."
Over the past four years, Saadat has been held in
solitary confinement in a move which last month sparked mass
protests among the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails,
with 200 starting a hunger strike that they are still