A senior PA official said Sunday that a deal to secure the release of Shalit was in the works, claiming that the kidnapped soldier would be freed in return for a cessation of hostilities between the IDF and Hamas, and the release of Palestinian prisoners In an interview on the Israeli-Palestinian radio station, Voice of Peace, Ahmed Yousef, head political advisor to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, said that the cease-fire and prisoner release are the two main elements of the agreement. Yousef added that it is still uncertain how many prisoners will be released, but he emphasized that the exact figure was unimportant. Even as news of contacts emerged, Shalit's father said Sunday that there has been no progress in the intensive, back-channel efforts to free his son. "I am aware of contacts but not of advancement, and therefore I am not encouraged," Noam Shalit told Israel Radio. "The advancement is only in the newspapers."
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The Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported Sunday that a deal brokered by Egypt was in the works to free Shalit in return for 800 Palestinian prisoners, to be released in three stages.
On Saturday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said negotiations were ongoing to secure Shalit's release and that Israel was waiting for a Palestinian "initiative" that spelled out Palestinian conditions for a prisoner exchange.
Shalit's father also blamed Hamas' leaders, calling on them to at least make a humanitarian gesture.
"The advancement is stuck in Damascus," he said. "One of the signs that will show that they want to move forward is a sign of life from Gilad, to show he is alive and well. This will show that they are ready and interested in moving forward. We want to get a vital sign from Gilad that he is in good shape and healthy."
Osama al-Muzaini, a Hamas member who is one of the links between Hamas and the kidnappers, said he knew nothing new about the status of the Shalit negotiations. "Unfortunately nothing is moving," he said.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said Sunday that he hoped "the Egyptian efforts will be fruitful in this issue."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said he was unaware of any negotiations to free Shalit, but called for his immediate release.
"He has been held for too long by Palestinians as a hostage. His kidnapping and the inability of the Palestinian leadership to facilitate his release has a very negative influence on the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. His release and the cessation of rocket fire from Gaza to Israel is a necessary prerequisite for moving towards normalizing relationships between Israel and the Palestinian Authority," he said.
Noam Shalit said the time had come to close the deal for humanitarian reasons, so his family and others could be reunited for the upcoming Jewish holidays.
"I call on Damascus, the holidays are coming soon, also the Muslim holidays, Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, when prisoners are traditionally released, and maybe a lot of prisoners could be home for the holidays, so let's hurry up," he said.