Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal 311 Reu.
(photo credit: Khaled Al Hariri / Reuters)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed there was a kernel of truth to the rumors
of renewed talks in Egypt for the release of captive soldier Gilad Schalit, as
exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal arrived in Cairo from Syria.
al-Hayat newspaper on Tuesday quoted Palestinian sources as saying the Israeli
side has shown “flexibility” in freeing Palestinian prisoners from Arab east
Jerusalem and Israeli- Arab inmates – two categories that had been rejected by
'Israel willing to 'pay the price' for freeing Schalit'
Hamas optimistic over exchange deal for Schalit
Israeli media further speculated Israel has reduced the number of
security prisoners to be exiled from the area after their
Earlier on Tuesday, Barak referred briefly to the rumored
negotiations, saying there is a bit of truth behind the recent
“I don’t want to say anything [about Schalit] because I don’t
think it helps,” Barak said in an interview with Tel Aviv Nonstop Radio on
But when asked specifically about Mashaal’s arrival in Cairo and
increased Israeli flexibility in the deal, Barak said, “There is a grain of
truth in the rumors.”
“These reports are part of the process but I prefer
not to speak [about it],” he said.
The defense minister said he believes
there were serious talks with Hamas “twice in the past five years, but they
A senior Egyptian security official said Mashaal,
who traveled with a Hamas delegation, met with Egyptian intelligence officials
to discuss reconciliation between his group and the secular Fatah Movement led
by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
They also touched on the issue of
the prisoner swap.
“The meeting dealt with an assortment of issues,
mainly the Palestinian reconciliation. The prisoner swap was discussed on the
margins of the meeting,” the official told Reuters, without giving further
Egypt has been mediating talks between Israel and Hamas to free
Schalit, who was kidnapped in June 2006 and has been held since then in
In past talks Hamas demanded the release of 1,000 prisoners,
including 450 that it named.
The list includes prisoners responsible for
terror attacks against Israel.
Israeli defense official Amos Gilad
visited Cairo last week to discuss “issues of concern” to Israel.
was some speculation in the Israeli media on Tuesday that Hamas was also willing
to show some flexibility because it was interested in completing the deal in
advance of the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN in September.
addition, there is some thought that the Palestinians could receive more support
at the UN General Assembly if Schalit is freed, particularly since Schalit holds
dual Israeli- French citizenship.Jerusalem Post staff contributed to