Last-ditch effort - Olmert
Photo: Reuters

Major effort to free Shalit underway

PM's Office issues special statement, Israeli negotiators sent to Cairo in effort to finalize prisoner swap; relative of senior Hamas detainee: We were told deal on verge of completion. Olmert to convene special cabinet session Monday

Is Shalit swap being finalized in Cairo? The Prime Minister's Office issued a special statement Saturday night regarding the latest efforts to secure the release of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.


According to the statement, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sent Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin and negotiator Ofer Dekel to Egypt for a last-ditch effort to release Shalit. The two are expected to stay in Egypt until Sunday night.


Diskin and Dekel are scheduled to meet with senior Egyptian officials serving as mediators in the effort to secure Shalit's release and look into the possibility of advancing a prisoner swap.


Meanwhile, Olmert's office is keeping both Prime Minister-designate Netanyahu and Shalit's family updated of the latest developments. However, officials at the PM's Office refused to say whether a breakthrough has been reached.


'I heard nothing'

In an initial response to Diskin's and Dekel's trip to Cairo, Gilad Shalit's father said he had no new information.


"We know what everyone else knows, and we're still unclear about the significance of what's going on," Noam Shalit said. "Beyond the fact they're going, I heard nothing. But it ain't over till it's over."

As to reports of progress, he said: "In this tango there are always fears that we are moving one step forward and one step back, or two steps forward and then three steps back."


Regardless of developments in Cairo, PM Olmert intends to convene a special government session on the matter Monday morning. During the session, ministers will apparently be asked to vote on a swap agreement, should it be reached.


'Matter is closed'

Earlier Saturday, Gilad Shalit's brother, Yoel, joined the effort to free the abducted soldier.


In an interview with Channel 2's "Meet the Press, Yoel Shalit characterized the current stage as "a critical week and a critical junction."


"We very much hope that the campaign, the protest tent, and the broad public support will prompt decision-makers to make the right decision and bring Gilad back," he said.


Meanwhile, the relatives of a senior Hamas man detained in Israel told Ynet that the group's leadership is on the verge of finalizing the Shalit deal.


"We were led to understand that the matter is closed and that our sons will be released," one relative said. "We were told that a few loose ends remain, but not the kind that would prevent the deal's completion within very few days."


A Hamas source refused to provide details about the latest developments, but noted that the Shalit talks have heated up and are apparently about to be concluded. The source also refused to say whether families of Palestinian prisoners slated to be released in the swap have been informed of the news.


Ahiya Raved and Ali Waked contributed to report


פרסום ראשון: 03.14.09, 20:02
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