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Gilad Shalit
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Vilnai. 'Israel must do everything'
Photo: Gil Yohanan
2nd letter received from Gilad Shalit
Israel gets another sign of life from IDF soldier kidnapped into Gaza on June 2006, following first letter received several months after abduction. Foreign sources tell Ynet letter delivered by non-Egyptian third party. New letter proves Hamas wishes to advance hostage exchange deal
Israel recently received a second letter from kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who is being held captive in Gaza. According to foreign sources, the letter does not contain any new information on Shalit's condition.

 

Foreign sources told Ynet on Monday morning that the letter was delivered by a third party, which was not Egyptian. The new letter proves that Hamas wishes to advance the hostage exchange deal.

 

Spokespeople for the Palestinian organization have said in recent days that the Israeli soldier was being treated "with kid gloves" and that they were interested in completing the deal.

 

Israel recently decided to accelerate its moves, and a committee headed by Vice Premier Haim Ramon approved a relaxation in the criteria for the release of prisoners "with blood of their hands"

 

Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai was asked Monday morning about a report by Maariv daily on a second letter received from Shalit.

 

"We must talk less and do more. The State of Israel must do everything in order to bring soldiers back home," Vilnai told Israel Radio. 

 

In September 2006, Israel confirmed that a letter had been received from Shalit. The Palestinian newspaper al-Ayyam reported several days earlier that Egypt had handed over to Israel a letter written by Corporal Gilad Shalit, telling his father that he is alive and well.

 

The newspaper said the letter was the first sign of life from Shalit since his kidnapping in a cross border attack on June 25.

 

"This is an important development which is likely to seriously open the door for a prisoners swap deal of Palestinian prisoners in return for Gilad Shalit," the newspaper wrote.

   

'Road ahead is still very long'

A high-profile meeting was held Sunday on the subject at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office. The meeting was called to resolve the differences between Ofer Dekel, who was appointed by Olmert to oversee the release efforts, and Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin.

 

Several cabinet ministers attended the meeting at Olmert's office on Sunday. Led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the assembled group attempted to find a breakthrough in the stalled internal negotiations.

 

Olmert is currently promoting a new set of terms that Israel would be willing to meet in the negotiations. The new position goes against the position maintained by Diskin. The change may speed up Shalit's release, but officials in the know have estimated that any final deal is still far off.

 

Dekel believes Israel must make concessions regarding the release of prisoners wanted by the Palestinians, in accordance with the list of names given to Israel through Egyptian mediators. But Diskin has voiced vehement objection to the move, citing concerns that once freed, convicted terrorists would return to launching attacks against Israeli citizens.

 

Olmert eventually ruled in favor of Dekel's agenda and authorized the plan to add more names to the Israeli list and ease the criteria for release – as was recommended by the committee led by Vice Premier Ramon that examined the case.

 

A senior official familiar with the Israeli efforts to secure Shalit's release told Ynet on Sunday that "the road ahead is still very long. Hamas has high demands that we have no intention of conceding to."

 

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