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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Hamas official announces breakthrough on Shalit

Hamas official announces breakthrough on Shalit

Abu Obaidah, spokesman for Hamas's armed wing, Izaddin a-Kassam, announced Sunday that a breakthrough had been reached in negotiations to free kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit, Israel Radio reported.

According to Obaidah, if contacts continued along current lines, the prisoner exchange transaction will take place quickly and very soon.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, meanwhile, told the London daily Al-Hayat that negotiations for Shalit's release had gone smoothly, and that Egypt was just waiting for Palestinian approval.

Obaidah neither confirmed nor denied an earlier report in the United Arab Emirates paper Al-Khaleej that Shalit's family and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had recently received a videotape showing the soldier, abducted by Hamas-affiliated guerrillas on June 25, was alive and in good health.

  • Senior Israeli government officials denied on Sunday that the prime minister had received any such tape, as did Shalit's father, Noam.

    According to Army Radio, the Al-Khaleej report contradicted intelligence that had been passed on to the United States, Egypt, and Turkey that Shalit was dead.

    In addition, the article stated, Israel and Hamas have concluded a prisoner exchange deal, with Israel agreeing to release Palestinian security prisoners from all the various factions. Olmert, the report said, has instructed Israeli officials to implement the agreement.

    Olmert was expected to inform Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak of the deal, the report continued. Shalit's kidnappers, meanwhile, would move Shalit to Egypt, where he would be examined by Israeli doctors. No media would be allowed to cover his release.

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