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Israel-Hamas Prisoner Swap Faces Obstacles

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The release of a new videotape of a captive Israeli soldier has not raised expectations for a broader Israeli-Palestinian prisoner swap in the near future.

The father of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is not optimistic about his son's release, despite a videotape published on Friday showing for the first time that he is alive and well. Speaking a day after the Islamic militant group Hamas handed over the tape in exchange for the release of 20 female Palestinian prisoners, Noam Shalit said he does not expect a breakthrough.

In a statement to the media, he said Israel and Hamas are "not on the brink of a deal" and that he fears negotiations on a prisoner swap could take years.

Gilad Shalit was captured by Hamas militants in a cross-border raid more than three years ago and has been held in the Gaza Strip ever since. Hamas is demanding the release of about a thousand Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit; but Israel has refused because the list includes dozens of top militants involved in deadly suicide bombings and shooting attacks.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told reporters in Gaza that the ball is in Israel's court.

He said the only thing holding up a prisoner swap is what he described as the "stubbornness of the Zionist occupation."

Hamas officials say if Israel agrees to free all the prisoners on the list, Gilad Shalit could be freed tomorrow.