PM's Office: Israel to get Shalit video
Israel announces dramatic development in Shalit talks: State to release 20 female Palestinian prisoners in exchange for video providing unequivocal proof that captive soldier is alive. Source says German mediator already viewed video, believed to be filmed in recent weeks, which shows soldier alive and well
Israel's Security Cabinet has approved the release of 20 female Palestinian prisoners and detainees in exchange for proof that captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit held in the Gaza Strip is alive.
In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Wednesday that it expects to receive a video showing the soldier is alive and well. The deal is to be carried out on Friday. However, a senior official in Netanyahu's office said the negotiations are still "expected to be long and difficult."
Similar statements were given in Cairo and Gaza on Wednesday. The Shalit family was also updated on the recent developments in the affair.
"According to the proposal by mediators, Israel will receive updated and unequivocal proof of Shalit's condition," the statement said, without giving a date for the women's release.
Jerusalem sources said the German mediator working on the case has already viewed the video, and that Israel has information of its content, which shows that Shalit appears to be alive and well. The video is believed to have been recorded in recent weeks.
Shortly after the statement was given, the soldier's father, Noam Shalit told Ynet he was aware of the details of the deal, but would not comment at this point. Ynet has learned that the recent steps were made in coordination with the soldier's father, and that he was kept up to date throughout all the stages leading up to the current deal.
Egypt has been trying to mediate a prisoner swap since Hamas-linked operatives captured Sgt. Gilad Shalit more than three years ago. Shalit has not been seen since his capture.
On heels of crucial steps
Netanyahu praised special envoy on the Shalit case Hagai Hadas and his negotiations team for their professional handling of the matter, and said, "It's important that the world know that Shalit is alive and well, and that Hamas is responsible for his safety."
"The cabinet has decided to accept the Egyptian initiative as a confidence building step in the frame of the indirect talks, ahead of the crucial steps in negotiations for Gilad Shalit's release, and based on the Israeli government's commitment to work determinedly to bring him home fast, while protecting the State of Israel's vital interests," the Prime Minister's Office said.
Meanwhile, in Gaza, Abu Obeida, spokesman for Hamas' militant wing, confirmed that 20 female prisoners were expected to be returned in the coming days. He made no mention of a videotape of Shalit, saying only that Hamas would respond by "clarifying his fate."
The 20 prisoners to be released in exchange for the videotape of Shalit is comprised of eight Nablus residents, four Ramallah residents, three from Hebron, three from Bethlehem, one from Jenin and one from the Gaza Strip. Seven of the prisoners are not affiliated with any group; four are from Hamas, three from the Islamic Jihad, five from Fatah and one from the Popular Front.
The list of prisoners will be published on the Israel Prison Service's website in the coming hours. The PMO's statement said the list may be viewed and any information regarding the process may be obtained at the Justice Ministry's pardons department.
Reuters and Ahiya Raved contributed to this report