Friday, 26 June 2009

Haaretz: Shalit Transfer to Egypt Imminent as Part of US Initiative


26/06/2009 Captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit will be transferred to Egypt within a few days as part of a swap deal with Hamas, Haaretz quoted European diplomatic sources as saying Thursday. The move is part of a new United States initiative that includes Egyptian and Syrian efforts with Hamas, internal Palestinian reconciliation and Israel's opening of the Gaza crossings.

According to the Israeli daily, a reliable European source said this Egyptian-brokered agreement was reached two days ago. A Palestinian source confirmed the report last night but officials in Tel Aviv denied any knowledge of it.

The idea to transfer Shalit to Egypt in exchange for the release of Palestinian women, teens, cabinet ministers and parliamentarians being held in Israeli prisons was raised about a year ago during a visit by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter to Damascus, occupied Jerusalem and Gaza. Apparently Carter raised it again on his visit earlier this month, during which he met Noam Shalit, Gilad's father.

According to the plan Shalit will be entrusted to Egyptian intelligence, and his parents will be allowed to visit him. He will be returned to Israel after an agreement is reached regarding the list of Hamas detainees to be released that was previously submitted to the cabinet.

The European source said Shalit's transfer to Egypt was the first stage of the Egyptian-brokered agreement hammered out between Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions, in coordination with the U.S. and with Syria's support.

The deal would put the Gaza Strip under the leadership of a joint committee subordinate to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
On Tuesday Palestinian news agency Maan quoted Egyptian sources as saying that Shalit was to be transferred from the Gaza Strip into Egypt within hours, a report that Israeli sources denied.

Shalit was captured on June 25, 2006 by group of Palestinian factions.

Israel this week freed Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker and Hamas member Aziz Dweik after three years in prison.

Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal said yesterday he welcomes U.S. President Barack Obama's new approach to the Middle East, but is waiting to see action.
Meshal said the only way for Israel to win Shalit's release is by striking "a full deal," and not "the way of obduracy" which he claims was characteristic of Olmert.
"Mashaal reasserted Hamas’ commitment to free Palestinian prisoners languishing in Zionist jails, detention camps and dungeons.He pointed out that there were as many as 12, 000 Palestinian prisoners detained in Zionist custody, including 400 children, the youngest of whom is Yousuf al Zeq, who is only 15 months’ old.“What is preventing a prisoner swap deal from seeing the light is Israeli intransigence. Otherwise, we are willing to carry out a serious deal that would release our prisoners from Zionist jails.”

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