Israel could free 800 Palestinians for soldier


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Israel could free 800 Palestinians for soldier
Sun Sep 3, 7:40 AM ET

Under secret talks being brokered by Egypt, Israel could release up to 800 
Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a soldier captured by Gaza militants in 
early June.

Quoting unnamed security officials, top-selling daily Yediot Aharonot said 
Israel would free the prisoners in three stages and that the negotiations were 
being held up over the timetable of the releases.

Israel has refused as part of the deal to release Marwan Barghuti, a leader of 
the Palestinian uprising and a top official of president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah 
faction, it said.

Gaza militants seized Corporal Gilad Shalit in a June 25 cross-border raid that 
left two other soldiers dead, sparking a large-scale Israeli offensive in the 
coastal strip to recover the serviceman and prevent rocket fire.

The continuing offensive has killed more than 200 Palestinians.

Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniya of the ruling Islamist Hamas movement 
told reporters Sunday: "The Egyptians are making a lot of efforts. There are 
certain things going on to solve this question but there is nothing specific.

"We hope the Egyptian efforts succeed," he said during a visit to a school in 

Shalit's father, Noam, confirmed to AFP that talks over his son's release were 
under way.

"There are indirect contacts by Egyptian intermediaries. For the moment there is
no progress, but I hope there will be some soon. That would be normal, after 70 
days" that Shalit has been missing, the father said.

"I have periodic contacts with the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, but for the 
moment I haven't any and I think Hamas's political arm in Damascus holds the key
to the situation."

Hamas's armed wing was one of three groups that claimed responsibility for the 
raid, demanding that Israel release prisoners in exchange for the soldier.

Asked to comment on the reports, a spokeswoman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud 
Olmert told AFP Sunday: "We do not talk with terrorists."

The Jewish state has officially demanded an unconditional release, but local 
media have reported that talks have been under way for some time.

On Saturday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told the leading state-owned daily
Al-Ahram that talks were under way to release the soldier in exchange for 
Palestinian women and children in Israeli jails.

The Cairo weekly Akhbar Al-Yom quoted Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit as 
saying that Egypt was trying to secure the release of 1,000 Palestinian 
prisoners in exchange for Shalit.

Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2006 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

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