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Shalit. One step closer?
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Palestinian sources say Shalit issue at center of talks
Despite adamant refusal to include possible release of kidnapped Israeli soldier in truce talks until now, Hamas appears to be singing different tune. Member of Palestinian faction holding Shalit says matter will lead talks with Egyptian mediators, as opposed to original plans

Are the Palestinian factions in Gaza signaling a change in their position? Sources in the Strip told Ynet on Sunday evening that as opposed to what had been the original outline of the truce negotiations between Hamas and the Egyptian mediators, the issue of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is proving to be central to the talks.

 

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have demanded of Egyptian intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, to include Shalit in any burgeoning ceasefire deal. Up until recently, Hamas would not hear of the demand.

 

Prominent Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar went further, saying Hamas "would not offer Shalit for free."

 

But now it appears as though the Palestinian position has shifted. An official from one of the armed groups holding Shalit said that while Egypt's overtures have so far been encouraging, "with the Israelis you have to be suspicious even after there is a deal. These are not people who can be trusted, under any circumstances," he said.

 

"The situation is far from what one might call a breakthrough," he said, lowering expectations, "but our Egyptian brothers say there is a newfound flexibility in the Israeli position. We are waiting to see if this is a genuine development or just an Israeli manipulation." 

 

According to the source, Israel has put a great emphasis on its desire to see an end to the manufacturing of weapons and the smuggling of arms into Gaza rather than the truce itself.

 

"The Palestinian position demands the blockade be lifted and all crossings be opened. If Israel gives us a ceasefire we will do the same, but the other matters must come with a price.

 

"Generally speaking, the exchange is a complete end to the siege on Gaza, without games of semantics or any Israeli control over how matters are run. Without these clauses, any ceasefire, should it be agreed upon, will not last. If the enemy is willing, then let's 'get down to business,' but if the enemy is not willing – the resistance groups are ready and willing."

 

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