Gilad Shalit
No military option. Ashkenazi
Photo: Yaron Brener
Israel estimates at least 10 days before Shalit deal finalized
Hamas leaders to convene in Damascus after German mediator communicates Israel's latest stance on prisoner exchange; Islamist group figures say it will seriously consider proposal, in part due to heavy pressure from families of Palestinian prisoners

Despite the fact that Israel has communicated its position on the burgeoning prisoner exchange agreement to the German mediator, it will take at least 10 days or a few more weeks before a deal for the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit is sealed, Ynet learned Tuesday night.


Hamas has yet to relay its position, and before it does one of its representatives is expected to meet with the group's exiled leadership in Damascus. German mediator Ernst Uhrlau is scheduled to return to Germany for Christmas and return to the region at the beginning of next week.


Uhrlau was expected to cross into Gaza late Tuesday night in order to present Israel's position to Hamas.


A number of senior Hamas figures said the Islamist group wants to advance the negotiations and would seriously consider Israel's proposal, in part due to heavy pressure exerted by families of Palestinian prisoners.


Among the hundreds of prisoners Israel is willing to release are terror leaders who had been given life sentences. Jerusalem's demand that these terrorists be deported to Gaza or abroad has already been relayed to Hamas' leadership in Gaza.


Earlier Tuesday, Arab sources familiar with the negotiations told Ynet that Uhrlau has asked Israel to reconsider its reservations in order to push the deal.


According to the sources, Jerusalem's demand to deport dozens of prisoners indefinitely and its refusal to release several leaders – namely Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Sadat – as well as its refusal to free jailed Israeli Arabs, are "too much" for Hamas to accept.


Meanwhile, Egypt is pressuring Hamas to make further allowances, Arab sources said.


Also on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's national security advisor, Uzi Arad, apologized to IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi for saying he was acting like the "chairman of the soldiers' parents' association" during the negotiations for Shalit's release.


After failing to devise a military option to retrieve Shalit, both Ashkenazi and Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin are hoping that the negotiations succeed, while Arad and Mossad chief Meir Dagan believe Israel should not accept Hamas' demands.


Earlier in the day Netanyahu met with representatives of terror victims and bereaved families for an hour-and-a-half in light of the progress being made on a prisoner swap for Shalit.


During the meeting in Jerusalem, Netanyahu assured them that when considering the various aspects of the prisoner exchange deal he was guided by the "need to retrieve captives and the need to protect Israeli citizens from future harm."


Attila Somfalvi and Ronen Medzini contributed to the report  




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