25 March 2009

Hamas & Israel Talking Again on Prisoner Swap

Israeli-Palestinian Prisoner Swap Back on the Table

This just in from Haaretz:

Hamas resumed indirect negotiations with Israel aimed at exchanging abducted Israel Defense Force soldier Gilad Shalit for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners currently held in Israeli jails, Hamas official Ali Barakeh said Wednesday.

Shalit was kidnapped by Gaza militants in a cross-border raid in June, 2006. Efforts to secure his release in a prisoner exchange with Hamas have so far yielded no results.

Barakeh said that a delegation from Hamas is in Cairo to pursue a deal.

Also, Palestinian sources reported that Egytian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman had sent an envoy to Israel, and that he had spent the last two days here. The sources said that the Egyptian official was sent to Israel in order to revive talks geared at securing Shalit's release.

Egyptians sources have clarified that efforts to secure a prisoner exchange agreement have resumed and will continue in the following days until a deal is reached.

Israeli officials sounded similar comments on Wednesday.

It appears that now, both sides will focus solely on completing the deal before the end of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's term and the swearing in of the new government, led by Likud Chairman Benjamin Netnayahu. However, it is not clear whether the gaps between the two sides can be bridged within this time frame. It is also unclear whether Hamas has handed Israel a revised prisoner list.