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Hamas Demands Israel Release Terror Mastermind Marwan Barghouti in Exchange for Hostages

Hamas is demanding that Israel release a high-profile Palestinian terror mastermind and political leader who some Palestinians view as a Nelson Mandela-like figure. As part of the ongoing cease-fire negotiations with Israel, senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan called for the release of Marwan Barghouti.

Barghouti, 64, was a leader of the late Yasser Arafat’s Fatah party, Hamas’ main political rival in the Gaza Strip. He was arrested in Ramallah in Judea and Samaria in 2002 and is serving multiple life sentences for his role in numerous deadly attacks during the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s.

“Hamas wants to show to the Palestinian people that they are not a closed movement. They represent part of the Palestinian social community. They are trying to seem responsible,” Qadoura Fares, who heads the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoner Affairs in the occupied Judea and Samaria, said of Hamas’ interest in releasing a popular figure from a rival party.

Many Palestinians see Barghouti as the natural successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose forces in Gaza were overrun by Hamas in 2007.

If Barghouti is released, Fares explained, he could become a candidate that Hamas, Fatah, and other Palestinian factions could rally behind. An opinion poll published in December showed that Barghouti was still the most popular politician among Palestinians. (NYP / VFI News)