(photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI)
Israel will have to make "difficult decisions" and will pay a "difficult price" to secure the release of its abducted soldier Gilad Schalit, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said during a Labor Party conference in Dimona on Tuesday.
Barak added that it was Israel's moral duty to "carry out every appropriate maneuver possible so that Gilad returns home safe and sound."
The defense minister has made periodic calls for Schalit's release, but has so far avoided commenting on the status of Egyptian-mediated negotiations with Hamas aimed at releasing the captive soldier, besides saying that details of the talks should be kept secret.
On July 25, senior Hamas member Mahmoud Zahar said no negotiations were taking place to free Schalit. Zahar denied earlier press reports saying that Hamas had given Israel a list of prisoners it wanted freed in exchange for Schalit. Hamas members merely stipulated their conditions verbally to Egyptian mediators, he had said.
Schalit was kidnapped by Hamas in June 2006 during a Hamas raid on an IDF outpost on the border with Gaza.
The current truce with Hamas should be used to advance the talks to free Schalit, Barak said Tuesday evening. He added that he did not know how long the cease-fire would last, and that the days of relative calm should be used to complete rocket-proof reinforcements to structures and homes in Sderot and other Gaza-border communities.
Barak said the NIS 72 million Israel had transferred to Gaza on Tuesday was "not going to Hamas," but rather to the Palestinian Authority, adding that the funds were transferred at the request of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad.
"We have set a stance, according to which we support the Palestinian Authority," Barak said.
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