Egypt close to securing Israel-Hamas deal, officials say

Egypt close to securing Israel-Hamas deal, officials say

CAIRO: Reports coming from Egypt on Monday indicate that a prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel is closer to becoming a reality after Israel allegedly softened its hard-line terms for an agreement, officials said. Hamas officials are currently in Egypt for planned meetings with Egyptian intelligence officials over a proposed deal that would see Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit given back to Israel in exchange for around 150 Palestinian prisoners.

The deal had looked close to succumbing to political pressures after Israel last month said it would refuse any deal that would see a large number of Palestinians released from prison. Now, it seems, both parties are back at the negotiating table and one Egyptian official told Bikya Masr that he believes an agreement is nearing completion.

“I think we are getting somewhere now that Tel Aviv has let go some of its positions in order to get a deal to come through,” the official said, not elaborating.

Egypt has been spearheading negotiations between Hamas and Israel, with German assistance, but in the past few months, it appeared the two sides continued to be far apart on a possible agreement to see Shalit returned to the Jewish state.

Shalit was taken by Palestinians who had tunneled into Israel from the Gaza Strip in 2006. The result of a military incursion by Israel to force Hamas – who had taken control of the prisoner – to return the soldier. The violence led to a stalemate, with Israel linking any reduction in the economic blockade on Gaza to the return of the soldier.

Sources close to the negotiations have revealed that they hope a deal could be brokered by the end of the week ahead of the Eid al-Adha Islamic celebrations.

For Israelis, where public pressure has been growing on the government to ease its demands, the possibility of a deal is likely to be received with optimism.

“I don’t know about that, but we are getting closer to something and that should give us some optimism that both sides are willing to negotiate,” the Egyptian official added.

The Source: