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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Noam Shalit, father of kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit, is expected to visit the Gaza Strip in the next few days to meet with members of Hamas and Fatah.
Contacts are underway to arrange a meeting for Shalit with representatives of both organizations, which have agreed in principle to meet with the captive soldier's father, the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat reported on Monday morning.
According to an Egyptian official interviewed by Al-Hayat, despite the generally positive atmosphere of meetings held thus far to negotiate the fate of Gilad, Israel and Egypt have been unable to devise a plan for his release that would be acceptable to all parties concerned.
"There are great differences of opinion between Hamas and Israel. Names [of potential Palestinian prisoners to be released] have not yet been formally presented... There are still disagreements on the number [of prisoners] and the time frame [for their release]," the official said.
He pinned responsibility on both Hamas and Israel for failing thus far to reach an agreement.
"The way I see it, Israel is not interested in freeing Shalit, and they are using him as a bargaining chip and an excuse for all the aggressive actions and escalations of activities against the Palestinians," the report said.
"Both sides are setting difficult conditions in order to ensure failure of an agreement - for example, Hamas's demand to release [Fatah-Tanzim leader Marwan] Barghouti, and [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert's stipulation of [the establishment of a Palestinian state] without the right of return."