Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Israel, Hamas came close to Shalit deal

JTA, 8-29-07

Israel and Hamas came close to clinching a deal in May for the release of Gilad Shalit from his Gazan captivity.

Israeli Vice Premier Haim Ramon on Wednesday confirmed recent disclosures by Hamas that Egyptian-brokered talks on freeing Shalit in exchange for Palestinian prisoners almost bore fruit three months ago.

Speaking on Israel Radio, Ramon said the Olmert government had agreed in principle to release 450 prisoners, but balked at some of the names on the roster presented by Hamas. Israel has long ruled out an exchange in which deadly terrorists would be freed from jail.

Ramon said Israel is awaiting a new list of 1,000 names to be submitted by Hamas, whose gunmen led a June 25, 2006 cross-border raid in which Shalit was captured and two other soldiers killed.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Gilad Shalit turns 21 in captivity

JTA, 8-28-07

Israelis marked the 21st birthday of captive soldier Gilad Shalit.

Supporters of Shalit held a rally in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, the conscript sergeant's second birthday in Palestinian captivity. Newspapers and other media carried fresh coverage of his family's ordeal.

Shalit was abducted in a June 25, 2006 cross-border raid by Hamas-led gunmen in the Gaza Strip. Two of his comrades were killed in the incident.

His father, Noam, said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was not doing enough to recover his son from Hamas, which wants a prisoner exchange.

"There are no serious negotiations, and to judge from the outcome, the situation is a clear and total failure," he told Israel Radio.

Olmert has signaled a willingness to bargain for Shalit's return but has ruled out the lopsided swap demands made by Hamas.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said Monday that a deal was almost clinched to trade Shalit for 350 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, but that it fell through over the types of prisoners the Olmert government would release. Israel has said it will only release prisoners not involved in killings.