A senior Hamas figure told Ynet Sunday evening that the last several hours have seen a "significant breakthrough" in the Gaza ceasefire talks held in Egypt. Should everything proceed as it has been, added the source, the ceasefire may take effect within hours.
Egypt has taken the role of mediator between Israel and the Islamist group with the objective of carving a long-lasting armistice from the fragile ceasefire declared at the end of Israel's January offensive in Gaza.
Hamas' statement was made shortly after Israel expressed once again an adamant stand as to the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, stating that his release was a prerequisite to any other mitigations.
Earlier Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the National Security Cabinet that Israel would discuss opening the Gaza good crossing and additional prisoner release only after Shalit's release is secured.
Hamas sources refused to elaborate on the details of the progress made in the negotiations, saying only that the truce may take effect at any time after midnight Sunday, adding that barring any unexpected developments, Hamas' leadership will announce the official ceasefire in a Cairo press conference, to be held Monday.
According to the details available, the immediate truce would be at least 18-months long and, according to a Hamas source, the group would not have agreed to any draft agreement unless it included opening the Gaza crossings.
As for any progress made in Shalit's case, the source would only add that "progress has been made in all avenues."
Sources in the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) also told Ynet that the group received a communiqué from Cairo, indicating an official ceasefire was imminent.
Hamas' statements, however, encountered somewhat opposing asseverations by Jerusalem: "This is a complex process which is taking place between Egypt and Hamas and Egypt and Israel. Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire. Hamas said it would hold its fire in the past and has failed to do so," said a source in the capital, adding the past declaration made by Hamas as to an imminent ceasefire have proven false.
Hamas has hardened it position on the crossings over the past few days, demanding Israel would commit to opening all crossings and allow certain amount and types of good through. The group reportedly refused to include Shalit in the ceasefire agreement, but sources in the Strip said that no progress on the lull could have been achieved unless an actual breakthrough in the captive soldier's case was made.