Netanyahu denies imminent exchange deal with Hamas
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied that an agreement had been made with Hamas for the return of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. “Discussions about a deal [for Gilad Shalit] being secured in the next few days have no basis,” Netanyahu said in a cabinet meeting Sunday.
“We must return Shalit home safe and sound, but nonetheless, there is a great deal of exaggeration and inaccurate information out there,” he added.
Netanyahu’s statements came amid several reports of an imminent breakthrough. German weekly Der Spiegel reported Saturday that the German mediator in the talks over Shalit’s release presented Hamas a new proposal that Hamas would respond to within three days.
On Sunday, Saudi newspaper al-Madina reported that Israeli negotiator Haggai Hadas arrived in Cairo to meet with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and the German mediator to push forward a deal for Shalit’s release.
Meanwhile, on Saturday Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel warned against “excessive optimism,” saying that talks have only achieved minimal progress. According to London-based newspaper al Hayat, however, Syrian-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is expected to arrive in Cairo this week to approve the prisoner exchange with Israel. The exchange would involve the release of Shalit for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners detained by Israel.