Israel confirmed on Sunday morning that there had been progress in the negotiations to secure the release of captured IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit. However, security sources neither confirmed nor denied that they had received a sign of life of the kidnapped soldier.
Report: Israel gets letter from Shalit
Amid reports in the Arab media Shalit will be released in the coming days, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said Saturday that "lots of movement" was being made in the negotiations with the soldier's Hamas kidnappers.
"There is a lot of movement on this issue, but I can't say that as of now there is something specific to discuss," Haniyeh said before entering a meeting with Egyptian intelligence officials involved in the talks. "We want to listen to our Egyptian brothers."
Earlier Saturday, the Saudi newspaper Ukaz reported that a secret prisoner-swap deal on Shalit's release would be finalized on Sunday.
According to the report, Israel will release jailed Hamas ministers and lawmakers and subsequently gradually release 740 other Palestinian prisoners.
The report has not been confirmed by Israeli or Palestinian officials.
Earlier this week, a Palestinian newspaper reported that Shalit's captors had handed a letter purportedly written by Shalit to Egyptian mediators, who then delivered it to his family.
Shalit's father, Noam, declined to respond directly to the report, but said Friday he had received no sign of life from his son.
MK Taleb a-Sanaa (United Arab List-Ta'al), who is a lawyer and volunteered to represent the Hamas lawmakers in court, told The Jerusalem Post that he had been told by Palestinian and Egyptian sources that a deal was imminent.
"We are closer than ever before," he said Saturday night. "There are developments within the Palestinian Authority and Israel and there is willingness to create a new political reality with the release of Shalit."
A-Sanaa also met with Noam Shalit on Friday.
On Thursday, a member of the IDF General Staff said that Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal was the "key" to the release of Shalit, who he said, was still being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
"Everyone understands that the final decision will be made by Mashaal in Syria," the officer said.
The Hamas leader, the officer said, was under pressure on the one hand by elements such as Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to release Shalit and on the other hand by more extremist elements such as Syria and Iran to hold on to the soldier.
AP contributed to this report