Israel vows to free captive soldier

Israel vows to free captive soldier


A Palestinian woman is seen in front of a mural, depicting captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit as a young man and an older man, in Jebaliya, northern Gaza Strip, on Tuesday. AP

Israeli leaders are under immense domestic pressure to resolve the case of 23-year-old Sgt Gilad Schalit, captured in a 2006 cross-border raid. Hamas  sees Schalit as a rich source of leverage for political and even economic gain.

Talks among Israel’s top Cabinet ministers and security chiefs had raised hopes that a deal was close, but there were signs that differences remained.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Israel’s top priority was to bring Schalit home.

On Tuesday, Israeli media reported that Israel had delivered a response to Hamas demands for the release of 1,000 Palestinians. The reports said Israel would approve a swap if Hamas agrees to the deportation of some prisoners. An Israeli official said the question of whether certain prisoners would return to the West Bank or be deported was “clearly” an issue.

A Palestinian official said in addition to seeking to deport about 100 prisoners, Israel also refuses to free seven of those involved in the most violent attacks on Israelis, including bombing masterminds.  A senior Hamas official, who also declined to be named, confirmed receipt of the Israeli answer. The Hamas government was holding its weekly meeting Tuesday, and the deal was expected to be on the agenda.

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