A deal between Hamas and Israel to release kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit is almost complete and will be part of the ceasefire agreement between the two sides, Egyptian sources told the Arab-language, London-based al-Hayat daily on Saturday.
"The deal to release kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit will be complete before Prime Minister Ehud Olmert leaves office and before a new government will be formed in Israel," the sources said.
The sources said that the release of Shalit in exchange for Palestinian prisoners will be part of a ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel and, as such, Israel will not agree to the full functioning of crossings into Gaza before his release is secured.
"Israel has no choice but to approve this deal. Olmert expressed his willingness to sacrifice and pay a large price for Shalit," the sources said, adding that Israel had tried to involve other international mediators to secure the soldier's release, to no avail.
The Egyptian sources added that Olmert reneged on his previous position regarding the number of prisoners in the exchange and agreed to release a thousand Palestinian prisoners. They noted that the prime minister, and not Defense Minister Ehud Barak, is the one who is calling the shots on the number of prisoners to be released.
They said that, as in previous agreement, the release would take place in three stages. "The Israelis were clear. They would open the crossings only after Shalit is released," the sources explained.
Meanwhile, foreign press has shown Hamas politiburo chief to be sending mixed messages as to the progress of a ceasefire agreement with Israel. In all reports, however, Khaled Mashaal has said that Shalit is not part of the deal but rather a separate issue.