Israel is "very near" to agreeing a prisoner swap with Hamas, though it remains unclear which Palestinian prisoners will be freed, an Israeli cabinet minister said on Tuesday. Hamas leaders were in Cairo to advance the Egyptian- and German-brokered negotiations under which the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit would go free in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians in Israel's prisons.
Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Israel's industry and trade minister, said a deal would get a broad-based political support in a country. "I am very happy that this deal is moving toward completion in the very near future," Ben-Eliezer told Israel's Army Radio.
Ben-Eliezer, an ex-general and former defence chief, added: "Are we closer today than ever? My answer is, certainly, positive. Obviously the deal will have a price. Obviously there will be names of heavy-duty murderers. The government will decide, and I hope the decision will be positive."