Abbas says Schalit release imminent

Calls on Israel to release Palestinian prisoners; Schalit receives his glasses.

Gilad Shalit 298 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Gilad Shalit 298 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told French television Friday that kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit will be released soon. "I want to tell you that we are investing all our efforts to release Gilad Schalit, and these efforts will bear fruit soon. We are optimistic. He will be released soon," he said in an interview with "France 24." "I am convinced that the soldier must be released," he continued. "He cannot continue being imprisoned for a very long time. We are calling on the Israelis to release Palestinian prisoners. There are 9,500 prisoners to release," said Abbas. Although Abbas mentioned the need to release Palestinians, he said Schalit's release should not be connected. "One issue does not depend on the other," Abbas said. This was not the first time that Abbas, who has been working with Egypt to win the soldier's release, has said a deal was imminent. He has often made such claims in the past. Earlier Friday, Nazareth-based A-Sinara newspaper reported that Schalit received his glasses, sent to him from Israel two weeks ago. Reportedly, progress in negotiations with Egyptian mediation brought about the transfer of the spectacles, which were sent by Gilad's father. A-Sinara claimed that the glasses were given to Egypt two months ago and made their way to Schalit via an Egyptian security delegation conducting negotiations to secure the soldier's release. Abu Mujahid, spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees - one of the groups claiming to hold Schalit - refused to confirm the report. On March 18, Channel 2 reported that Hamas had refused to take the glasses after Schalit's family had proposed transferring them to the movement via the Red Cross. AP contributed to this report.