'Hamas delegation to meet with German mediator in Cairo'

Schalit deal nearing, of

Noam Schalit worried 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Noam Schalit worried 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Hamas delegation which arrived in Egypt on Monday afternoon will meet on Tuesday with the German mediator assigned to the Gilad Schalit case, taking negotiations to release the captured IDF soldier a step forward, Al-Arabiya reported on Monday evening. According to the report, the mediator will meet with senior Hamas leaders in Gaza such as Mahmoud Zahar, Khalil al-Haya and Nizar Awdallah, as well as Ahmed Ja'abri, head commander of the organization's military arm. The delegation crossed into Egypt from Gaza Monday as IAF helicopters hovered overhead. Senior Gaza official Osama Hamdan had stressed earlier Monday that while Hamas was "serious in its intention to close the prisoner deal," a "happy ending" would not be possible until the "enemy's prime minister" agreed to the organization's "demands and conditions." Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu refused to confirm reports that a prisoner exchange was imminent, stressing during a Likud faction meeting on Monday afternoon that "There is no deal yet, and when there will be, it will be brought for debate in the Knesset and voted on in the cabinet." "It's a serious dilemma," he said of the possibility that hundreds of prisoners with a track record of terrorism would be released in exchange for Schalit. Throughout the day, relatives of victims of terrorist attacks expressed their adamant opposition to such an outcome, emphasizing that a decision on the deal could not be made without confirming that the public supported it. The prime minister stated that he was aware of the government's need for public support on the issue of a prisoner exchange. "When the time comes," he pledged, "we will not evade the public debate." "However," stressed the prime minister, "the time has not come yet." Netanyahu's remarks came in response to a question posed by Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely. Earlier Monday, a Palestinian familiar with the talks said that Israel and Hamas were very close to a deal to swap 1,000 Palestinians for Schalit, held for more than three years by the terrorist group. He said Egyptian and German mediators hope to complete the deal this weekend - by Eid al-Adha, the Muslim Festival of the Sacrifice. The source spoke on condition of anonymity, as the talks were ongoing. Meanwhile, in a statement, the Prime Minister's Office warned that the foreign media reports were unauthorized and some were "deliberately distorted." Senior Hamas officials in Gaza and Damascus were set to hold discussions about the latest list of prisoners Israel has apparently agreed to release in a possible swap deal. Also on Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak discussed issues ranging from Schalit's continued captivity to peace talks with the Palestinians in a phone call with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman.