Report: Schalit Deal will be finalized this week

Senior Hamas man tells 'Al Kuds al Arabi' that Israel is pressing Cairo to seal prisoner exchange.

Gilad Schalit 298 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Gilad Schalit 298 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Egyptian-mediated negotiations to release kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit have been renewed recently, Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy chairman of Hamas's political wing, told the paper Al Kuds al Arabi, Israel Radio reported Monday. Israel, Abu Marzouk told the paper, was pressing the Egyptians to close a deal and also asked other international sources to broach the subject with Hamas's political wing. The report received no official Israeli confirmation. Furthermore, Jerusalem's explicit policy is that it does not distinguish between Hamas's political and military wings. "Hamas wants to end the case of Gilad Schalit as soon as possible," sources close to Hamas told The Jerusalem Post late Sunday. "They are even prepared to accept a smaller list of Palestinian prisoners in return for Schalit." According to the sources, Hamas is now prepared to exchange Schalit for about 500 Palestinian prisoners, including some who belong to Fatah. Al Kuds al Arabi claimed that some of those expected to be released were Hamas parliament members who were arrested after Schalit was captured in June 2006. The paper further claimed that the deal would be finalized during the visit of Defense Minister Ehud Barak to Cairo, Wednesday. However, Abu Obeida, leader of Hamas's military wing, said a deal on Schailt has not been closed and would probably not be closed in the coming weeks. The Prime Minister's Office has not responded to the reports; but a forum of ministers will convene later Monday to reexamine Israel's criteria for the release of prisoners, a meeting geared towards further prisoner releases in the future. Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.