Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is close to concluding a prisoner swap deal with Hamas to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, say Israeli media reports.
According to Ha’aretz, after a long disagreement over prisoner exchange between the Palestinian Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli regime, the two sides are close to reaching a deal.
The negotiations were stalled in March, when former Israeli premier, Ehud Olmert refused to meet Hamas’ demands in return for the release of Gilad Shalit, who was captured two years ago in a cross-border operation by Palestinian fighters.
On Sunday, Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri accused the US and Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas of preventing the Israeli-Hamas swap deal.
The official said that Abbas opposes the release of Hamas officials from Israeli prison and the US tries to thwart the exchange, because such a move would boost Hamas’ standing among Palestinians.
In exchange for the Israeli soldier, Hamas has demanded the release of 1,400 Palestinian prisoners, including 450 who are serving long-term sentences – a request rejected by Tel Aviv, which views the Shalit’s freedom as a precondition for reopening all border-crossings into the blockaded Gaza Strip.
Hamas has said that the release of Shalit should be negotiated as part of a prisoner exchange deal and should not be linked to opening border-crossings or a permanent truce.