Defense Minister Ehud Barak has announced that he will meet with the families of the three kidnapped soldiers Eldad Regev, Ehud Goldwasser, and Gilad Shalit on Friday, due to the recent developments in negotiations with Hizbullah and Hamas.
Ofer Dekel, the Prime Minister's Office emissary in charge of Israel's efforts on behalf of its missing and captive soldiers is scheduled to leave for Cairo next Tuesday in order to renew the negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit.
The meeting was scheduled after Head of the Defense Ministry's Security-Diplomatic Bureau Amos Gilad, who was named pointman for the ceasefire negotiations
between Israel and
the militant groups in Gaza Strip, met with Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman, earlier this week.
"If it wasn't for the truce, any possible progress in
Gilad's matter would have been postponed indefinitely. A wide scale military operation in Gaza could have irrevocably damaged any attempts to bring about his release," a senior diplomatic source told Ynet Thursday.
"The Israeli government will eventually have to pay a painful price – the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners," a security source told Ynet.
"We're talking about hundreds of prisoner with "blood on their hands"; some whose release has yet to be cleared by the committee headed by Vice Premier Haim Ramon… the committee cleared 70 prisoners for release, but its' going to take many more," added the source.
Palestinian sources familiar with the negotiations told Ynet that the ceasefire agreement called for the negotiations on Shalit's release to be resumed 24 hours after the truce's onset. Since the "following day" falls on the weekend, Dekel will leave for Egypt next week. A Hamas delegation will leave for Egypt at the same time.
Both parties are said to remain in Cairo pending an agreement on Shalit's release.
According to Palestinian sources, Hamas is expected to elasticize its demands for prisoners' release in exchange for the opening of Rafah Crossing and the near overall lift of the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The terms in the ceasefire allowing the Rafah crossing to be reopened have been almost completely finalized: EU and Palestinian Authority security forces stand to man the crossing, with Israel monitoring it via security cameras.
The sources said there was a "good chance" of a breakthrough in the talks, adding they believe Shalit's matter can be resolved within a month's time.
Gilad Shalit has been in Hamas' captivity for 725 days.
Ali Waked contributed to this report