"We are on the right track," said Noam Schalit, father of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, on Monday.
"However, we are not there yet," he emphasized, "and we have a long way to go before we reach our goal."
The goal, which the Schalit family has been working toward for over three years, would be freeing their son from Hamas custody. Gilad has been held captive in the Gaza strip for over 1,000 days.
Noam Schalit spoke at the protest tent in front of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, the ending point of a demonstrative stretcher-carry - a long-distance march IDF troops usually undergo for training and initiation purposes - conducted Monday by a large group of young activists to support the family and promote Schalit's return.
Schalit spoke to the youths, who marched from the military cemetery atop Mt. Herzl to the Prime Minister's residence and the protest tent while calling for Gilad's release, and told them that "Even if for a moment it appears that the release is close and that matters have been agreed upon, all I can say is that this is not the case."
An overwhelmed Schalit thanked the youths for taking a stance on Gilad's cause rather than spending their vacation time at the beach. He promised that efforts to release his son would not cease.
A source who met recently with Egyptian General Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman told Army Radio that he was optimistic and that a deal between Israel and Hamas may be struck soon. The source added that a list of 450 Palestinian prisoners whose release may be part of the deal was compiled, and that the latest negotiations centered on the Israeli government's opposition toward releasing Israeli Arabs and residents of east Jerusalem.
Negotiators also discussed big-name terrorists such as "leader of the intifada" Marwan Barghouti. Suleiman told the source that such prisoners would not be freed in the preliminary stages, so that their release would not be directly connected to the Schalit deal.
Israel also demanded that prisoners who committed grave offenses be transferred to other countries or the Gaza strip instead of to the West Bank.
The last female Palestinian prisoner to be released following the Schalit tape deal was transferred to the Gaza strip on Sunday.