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Breaking News: Israel, Hamas Both Benefit from Prisoner Swap

from VOA: Some analysts say a factor in the prisoner release deal could be a bid by Hamas to counter the rising popularity of rival Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas after he requested United Nations’ recognition of a Palestinian state last month.

The head of Jerusalem’s Palestinian Academic Society, Mahdi Abdul Hadi, says Hamas also is trying to improve relations with Egypt, which has imposed travel and trade restrictions along its border with Gaza.

Abdul Hadi says Hamas may be looking for a new location for its Syria-based leaders as the Syrian government comes under increasing Arab criticism for its violent crackdown on a seven-month-old popular uprising.

“Hamas is looking for a way out of Damascus,” said Hadi.  “And Egypt might be, could be the address for a future Hamas, hosting their leadership.”

Analysts say the deal also serves the interests of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has been under pressure to obtain the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit since he was captured, at the age of 19 years, by Hamas five years ago.

They say freedom for Shalit would likely boost the prime minister’s popularity, which has been sagging in recent months. And they say it would serve to undermine Abbas after his U.N. recognition bid, which is strongly opposed by Israel.

The Israeli government is keen to improve ties with Egypt.  Those ties have been strained since August when five Egyptian soldiers were killed in crossfire at the border as Israeli troops pursued Palestinian militants who mounted an attack in Israel from Egypt’s Sinai.


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