German mediator Gerhard Conrad, who is the acting liaison between Hamas and Israel in the negotiations meant to secure the safe release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit visited Gaza on Sunday, a Kuwaiti news agency reported Tuesday.
The report came on the heels of a recent statement made by Hamas strongman Mahmoud al-Zahar, saying that the Islamist group was ready to resume prisoner exchange negotiations.
According to the report, Conrad held a lengthy meeting with Hamas officials heading the Shalit negotiations, and then crossed back to Israel via Erez crossing.
The Kuwaiti news agency said Hamas refused to comment on the matter. Hamas sources refused to confirm the report, telling Ynet they had no knowledge of Conrad's visit.
Sunday saw Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirm that talks with Hamas have been renewed, and according to a Tuesday report in Saudi newspaper al-Madina, he is no longer ruling out the possibility of releasing former Fatah Secretary-General Marwan Barghouti from Israeli prison, in exchange for the captive soldier.
Al-Madina claimed Netanyahu asked Conrad to relay a message to that effect to Hamas.
Jerusalem-based al-Manar newspaper reported Monday that Conrad was "optimistic" about the talks, and planned to continue his efforts to the end of 2010; as he received "encouraging sigs from Hamas" during his previous visit to the region.
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