Palestinian sources said Sunday that Israel and Hamas have agreed on the details of a deal that will see the release of kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, who was snatched from his base near the Gaza Strip on June 25.
Under the terms of the deal, Hamas will transfer to Israel a videotape showing Gilad Shalit alive, and in return Israel will release a small number of prisoners in its jails.
But uncertainty marred the reports of a breakthrough Sunday afternoon, as the Prime Minister's Office denied having any knowledge of such drastic developments in the affair.
Skepticism relating to Shalit's release was also expressed by senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who said he has not been notified of such progress on Shalit's release, according to Israel Radio.
Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan, however, told Associated Press Television that there has been progress in the contacts. "We expect a declaration of a complete deal of releasing Palestinian prisoners for the imprisoned Zionist soldier soon. But this all depends on the Israeli side," he said. "We hope that the results of this deal will be soon, God willing."
A spokesman for the Palestinian Resistance Committee's, Abu Mujhad, told Haaretz a breakthrough has indeed been achieved in the talks on Shalit's release. He refused to offer details but did confirm that Israel made substantial progress in agreeing to the demands made by Palestinian organizations.
According to a Palestinian source, in the second stage of the deal Shalit will be handed over to the Egyptians, and then will be transferred to Israel. At the same time, 450 Palestinian prisoners will be released by Israel.
Hamas will present Egypt with a list of all the prisoners whose release it will seek and ask for Israel's authorization. Two months later, Israel will free another group of prisoners, the size of which and those included will be decided in Jerusalem. Israel has promised to be "generous" on this issue, the source said.
A senior Hamas official told Haaretz that members of the group in the territories were informed that there would be good news coming soon, although they had not been given any details.
Earlier Sunday, the spokesman of the military wing of Hamas said that there has been a "substantial breakthrough" in contacts toward Shalit's release, and that a prisoner exchange deal could be clinched soon.
"If the matters continue to progress in the channel in which they are currently progressing, I foresee a rapid deal, and in the very short term," Abu Abeida said in an interview to Israel Radio.
Shalit was captured on June 25, as part of a joint Palestinian raid, during which Hamas and other armed groups used a tunnel to cross under the Gaza border fence and attack an IDF position inside Israeli territory.
The radio reported Sunday that Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abu al-Gheit told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that a deal is effectively ready, and only awaits Palestinian Authority approval.
It’s not surprising that Chief Palestinian Negotiator, Saeb Erekat, knows nothing. He’s Fatah through and through and the June 25th attack launched on the Israeli border was strickly a PRC/Hamas operation. There has been a time honoured Arab dance Israelis typically go through when one of their own is held hostage….just think Ron Arad. But what puzzles me, is why is Hamas seeking to create a buzz on their dance card?
If the Ha’aretz outline of the possible deal is accurate; am I the only who feels it would be problemtic for the Egyptians (as in Camp David Peace Accord) to receive custody of an IDF soldier and hold him hostage pending approval for his release from a foreign terrorist organization? And what if Hamas reneges on the deal for whatever reason and demands the Egyptians not release Shalit to Israel? Are the Egyptians prepared to back Hamas against Israel?