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(photo credit: Channel 10 [file])
Israel has recently received a letter from IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit, as part of the process to push forward a prisoner exchange with Hamas, Egyptian sources facilitating the negotiations between Israel and Hamas claimed.
According to a report in Ma'ariv, the letter's authenticity was ascertained and it had been handed to the Schalit family. The Egyptian sources said this letter greatly facilitated intense contact between the sides - to the point where a deal has almost been finalized.
Jerusalem has maintained silence regarding the letter, but an initiative by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to ease the criteria for prisoner release is believed geared towards bringing to an end Schalit's captivity.
Among the prisoners considered for release are some with "blood on their hands." Reportedly, the point of contention is between IDF officials and Shin Bet agents.
The IDF officials believe that after being given "a sign of life, a negotiations track and a list of demands" Israel has only "to decide to act" and push for a speedy final deal even at the price of releasing dangerous terrorists. However, the Shin Bet agents believe negotiations should be exhausted and the release criteria should not be made too flexible.
Later Monday, Israel Radio reported that Hamas denied the Egyptian report, saying no such letter had been sent.
In June 2007, Hamas released a tape by Schalit, where he speaks (in what has been assessed to be a scripted text) of his deteriorating health, but last week, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said that Schalit was in "excellent" condition.
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