There is new momentum in negotiations on a prisoner exchange between
Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas that controls the Gaza
leader Khaled Mashaal is due in Cairo for talks with Egyptian mediators
on a possible prisoner swap with Israel. Hamas is demanding the release
of about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for captive Israeli
soldier Gilad Shalit, held for more than three years in the Gaza Strip.
officials say negotiations have accelerated since German mediators got
involved, making 11 trips to Gaza in recent weeks. Germany has brokered
prisoner swaps in the past between Israel and the Islamic guerrilla
group Hezbollah in Lebanon.
But Hamas official Osama Hamdan played down expectations.
said German mediation does not mean that a breakthrough is imminent
because Israel still refuses to accept the conditions of Hamas.
Israel has carried out many lopsided prisoner swaps in the past, it is
reluctant to accept the Hamas demand to release top militants involved
in deadly suicide bombings.
Israeli analyst Dan Schueftan says
Israel should not give in to Hamas because it will invite more
kidnappings and more terrorist blackmail.
are not considering the vital strategic interests of Israel, and we are
all focused on the need to release Gilad Shalit," he said. "I think
we'll be sorry for it if this deal goes through; it will be a defeat of
the State of Israel."
But many Israelis say it is part of the national ethos to bring captive soldiers home at any price.