Hamas official: Progress in Schalit talks but no deal yet

Hamas sources claim deal

Though significant progress has been made in negotiations to free captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, a prisoner exchange deal has not yet been reached, senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan said Sunday. The Hamas official warned that a deal would not take place unless Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu "complies with the demands of the resistance." Hamdan's comments came hours after Hamas sources quoted by Arab media as saying that a deal to free captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit had been finalized, and will be signed in the coming days. However, Arab television network Al-Arabiya quoted the sources as saying that something could still go wrong with the deal at any point. According to the report, the deal would entail a total of 450 Palestinian prisoners being released by Israel. Fox News reported that a new list of 70 prisoners, which Israel presented to Hamas, removed the last obstacle to the prospective deal. The prisoners will reportedly replace 70 others which Israel had previously rejected. Some of the Palestinians would apparently be transferred to the Gaza Strip, while others would leave the country. After the Palestinians are released, Schalit would be transferred to Israel via Egypt, the report added. The report said that the list of prisoners included Tanzim-Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, as well as other prisoners with "blood on their hands," meaning they had been involved in terror attacks which killed Israelis. Channel 2 noted that if the deal was signed, Israelis would be given an opportunity to appeal the prisoner release before it is carried out. Seemingly confirming the report, President Shimon Peres said Sunday that there had been progress in talks to free Schalit. Speaking before leaving Cairo, Peres said it was best not to go into detail on the progress. Despite Peres's comments, the al-Arabiya report could not be verified by other sources. The president echoed comments made by IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi earlier on Sunday, saying that reports on a deal to secure the soldier's release had already caused damage. Also Sunday night, ten IDF reserve soldiers from The Campaign to Free Gilad Schalit presented Defense Minister Ehud Barak with a petition, to remind him of his responsibility to bring about the soldier's release. The petition was signed by some 3,000 people, and read, "We expect you to show leadership, and persist in the negotiations for Gilad's timely release."