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Report: Agreement on Shalit issue near

London-based al-Hayat newspaper quotes Palestinian sources as saying deal securing release of kidnapped Israeli soldier is 'a matter of time'. Sources add declaration on truce between Israel and Hamas expected before Wednesday

An Egyptian-mediated agreement securing the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and a truce deal between Israel and Hamas will be signed within days, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat reported Friday morning.


However, Hamas politburo chief Moussa Abu Marzouk said Thursday that the nearing truce agreement was not linked to any prisoner exchange. "It's a separate issue and it has nothing to do with the lull," he stated.


A Hamas delegation held talks in Cairo on Thursday in a bid to reach an agreement on the truce issue. Sources in the movement told the paper that the delegation demanded to see the understandings in writing and that there would be enough guarantees and mechanisms to implement the agreement.


The sources estimated that the talks would continue for two more days before a final answer is given, assuming that a truce would be declared soon.


Palestinian sources defined by the paper are reliable said that the deal securing Shalit's release was "a matter of time", following progress made in recent days in the indirect Egyptian-mediated talks between Israel and Hamas.


The same sources said the move would include the release of some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including minors, women, parliament members and ministers on behalf of Hamas.


The sources noted that the truce issue and the Shalit issue were progressing simultaneously, and that ceasefire for at least 18 months would be declared before Wednesday.


They also said that the agreements would include a full opening of the Gaza Strip crossings and that the blockade imposed on the Strip would be lifted completely.


According to the report, the Rafah crossing connecting between Gaza and Egypt would be operated according to a 2005 agreement, in addition to the possibility that Turkish monitors would be stationed there temporarily, until the completion of the reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas and the establishment of a new national unity government which will send its own monitors to manage the crossing.


'Israel demands release and expulsion'

Meanwhile, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman addressed these issues in a rare interview to the official Egyptian daily al-Ahram. According to General Suleiman, talks are being held to determine the names of the Palestinian prisoners who will be released by Israel in exchange for Shalit.


Israel, he said, had offered to free several prisoners as long as they would be banished for good instead of returning to their homes in the West Bank. According to Suleiman, Egypt objected to this offer, insisting that the released prisoners return to their homes.


As for the truce agreement, Suleiman said Egypt was expected to receive Hamas' answer and discuss the issue with Israel next weeks, before reaching an understanding.


According to the Egyptian intelligence chief, four problems must be solved before an agreement is reached: The rocket fire, building a buffer zone between Gaza and Israel, a commitment by Hamas to honor the truce and an end to arms smuggling.


Suleiman said that all these issues were being dealt with as part of the talks between Egypt and Israel, in a bid to eventually lead to the removal of the blockade imposed on the Strip.


He added that there were no problems in regards to the food products and supply materials which must enter the Gaza Strip. He said Israel sought to cut 20% of the materials for construction – like concrete, aluminum and iron – until the sides reach an agreement on Shalit.


As for the internal dialogue between Hamas and Fatah, Suleiman added that Egypt was continuing its efforts to bring about an intra-Palestinian reconciliation agreement, which will have "no winners and no losers".


פרסום ראשון: 02.13.09, 10:36
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