Israel, Hamas in mutual gestures on prisoners

GAZA (Reuters) - Israel will free 20 Palestinian women from jail as early as Friday in exchange for a videotape from Hamas proving an Israeli soldier held in the Gaza Strip since 2006 is alive, officials on both sides said on Wednesday.

Egyptian and German mediators are continuing to work on a final deal to swap the soldier, Gilad Shalit, for hundreds of Hamas prisoners. The negotiations are part of international efforts to ease Israel's blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

"It is important for the entire world to know that Gilad Shalit is alive and well and that Hamas is responsible for his well-being and his fate," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

Shalit, now 23, was spirited into the Gaza Strip by Islamist militants who tunnelled into Israel three years ago in a raid in which two Israeli soldiers and two of the attackers were killed.

An Israeli official said the handover of the 20 women and the tape should take place on Friday, at the end of a two-day period when Israeli citizens can appeal in court against their release, an Israeli official said.

He added that a German mediator had already seen the video and believed it genuinely showed Shalit during recent weeks -- and certainly after Israel's offensive in Gaza in December and January in which some 1,400 Palestinians were reported killed.

The video lasts about a minute, said a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, one of the Hamas allies that took part in the raid in which Shalit was captured.


Post a Comment