'Marzouk was given videotape of Schalit'

Kuwaiti paper: Mashaal's deputy has tape showing soldier in good health; PMO: No knowledge of tape.

schalit in uniform 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy of Gilad Schalit's family)
schalit in uniform 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy of Gilad Schalit's family)
On his short trip to the Gaza Strip last week, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal's deputy, Moussa Abu Marzouk, was given a videotape of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, according to Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida. The tape reportedly shows the soldier to be in good health. Responding to the report, a senior government source told Israel Radio on Monday that the Prime Minister's Office had no knowledge of the videotape. The source also emphasized that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was making every effort to secure the soldier's release during his final days in office. The paper on Monday quoted Palestinian sources as saying that Marzouk was given the tape by Izzaddin Kassam Brigades commander Ahmad Jabari. He reportedly also received a letter from Schalit, which he passed on to the Syrian Foreign Ministry. The Jerusalem Post could not confirm the veracity of the report. According to the report, the tape will not be released unless "significant progress" is made in negotiations with Israel, and Palestinian sources were quoted as saying that "Hamas wants to use the tape as a bargaining chip at the end of negotiations, to prove how serious it is in its desire to wrap up the matter." Last week, the Kuwaiti paper reported that Marzouk met with Gaza leaders from his organization's military wing, "including officials responsible for the captivity of Schalit," after attending Palestinian reconciliation talks in Egypt. Marzouk, who was born in the Rafah refugee camp, spent nearly 24 hours in Gaza after entering from Sinai on March 5, visiting family and his parents' graves, an Israeli defense official told the Post last week. It was believed to be his first visit to Gaza in at least 20 and possibly 30 years. Egypt is now mediating talks between Israel and Hamas concerning the potential renewal of a cease-fire and a prisoner exchange agreement that would include the release of Schalit, who has been held captive in Gaza since he was abducted in June 2006. In June 2008, a letter written by Schalit to his parents was transferred to them by Hamas via the Carter Center. That letter was the third Schalit had sent to his parents since his abduction. Hamas released the letter as part of a promise it gave former US president Jimmy Carter during a meeting in April 2008. In the handwritten correspondence, Schalit wrote: "I am in bad health; I dream of the day when I will return home. I hope to return soon and demand that the government not abandon me." Brenda Gazzar contributed to this report.