Haaretz reports: Israel and Hamas have reached a prisoner exchange deal that will secure the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, officials at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Tuesday.
Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said that “a brief window of opportunity has been opened that would possibly lead to Gilad Shalit’s homecoming,” adding: “The window appeared following fears that collapsing Mideast regimes and the rise of extremist forces would make Gilad Shalit’s return impossible.”
The officials’ comment came following a report by Al-Arabiya, according to which a deal has indeed been reached between Israel and Hamas geared at the release of the IDF soldier, in Hamas captivity in Gaza since 2006.
Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are meeting several ministers in the Prime Minister’s Office in order to pressure them into voting for the deal, with Netanyahu aides estimating that the deal will be approved by the cabinet,
Special attention is reportedly being given to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman no to vote against the deal along with ministers from his Yisrael Beiteinu party. Several Likud ministers who have voiced opposition to freeing terrorists in exchange for Shalit are also being pushed to approve the deal.
Netanyahu called an emergency cabinet meeting scheduled for later Tuesday in which ministers are to discuss the status of talks geared at securing Shalit’s release.
Speaking with Haaertz, one Egyptian official said: “After 64 months of tough negotiations we were able to complete the deal. It was a very difficult task, which included thousands of hours of negotiations.”
Also on Tuesday, top Egyptian officials confimed to Haaretz that there had been significant progress in the attempts to strike a prisoner exchange deal that would lead to Shalit’s release.
The officials confirmed that an Israeli delegation, headed by the head of Shalit negotiations David Meidan, was in Cairo to indirectly discuss the details of a possible deal with the chief of Hamas’ military wing Ahmed Al-Jabari.
Similarly to previous rounds of Shalit talks, the indirect talks are overseen by Egyptian intelligence, headed by intelligence chief General Murad Muwafi and his aides.
Egyptian officials have also said that a the deal which has been reached in recent days also includes accused Israeli spy Ilan Garpal.
Activists linked to Palestinian prisoner rights in Israel have also indicated that a recent hunger strike amid those prisoners in Israeli jails was linked to the protest move, as well as the reason Hamas prisoners did not join the strike.
Marwan Barghouti, who has been referred to as “Palestine’s Mandela” and who has been imprisoned since 2002, is reported to be on the list of prisoners to be released.