Captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit may be released soon
REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM -- Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas have reached a tentative agreement to free several hundred Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of captured Israeli army Sgt. Gilad Shalit, according to officials on both sides.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his inner Cabinet on Tuesday evening to discuss the deal, which was reached in recent days during negotiations in Cairo.
Hamas television in Gaza Strip reported that as many as 1,000 Palestinian prisoners would be released as part of the arrangement. Hamas officials were expected to make an announcement later Tuesday.
The 2006 capture of the lanky Israeli soldier by Gaza-based militants triggered a punishing blockade by Israel of the seaside enclave.
In Israel, Shalit’s five-year ordeal has long been a source of national pain and anger, with ongoing protests led by the soldier’s parents to pressure the government to work harder to secure his release.
But the issue has also set off a debate in Israel over how much to offer for his freedom, because many of the Palestinian prisoners expected to be released were convicted by Israel of terrorist attacks. The deal would also likely bolster the popularity of Hamas, an Islamist movement that controls Gaza and refuses to recognize Israel or renounce violence.
Though hopes were high that the pending deal would be concluded, previous negotiations have broken down at the last minute.
-- Edmund Sanders
Credit: Captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is seen in a still image taken from video released Oct. 2, 2009, by Israeli television. Credit: Reuters