October 12, 2011
What could prove a historic deal to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for an Israeli soldier held captive in Gaza has been agreed between Israel and Hamas, concluding five years of negotiations that have repeatedly collapsed in acrimony and violence.
The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that he had telephoned the parents of Gilad Shalit, the soldier captured by Hamas in a cross-border raid in 2006, to tell them that their son would be home “within days”.
Mr Netanyahu said that a deal with Hamas was initialled last Thursday and signed yesterday, adding that he got “the best deal we could get”. He had earlier been quoted by an Israeli television station as saying “the window has been opened for a historic deal”.
Hamas leader Khalad Meshal confirmed the deal and said that it would see 1,000 Palestinian prisoners released in two stages, the first 450 within a week. The group would include 315 serving life sentences and all Palestinian women in Israeli prisons, he said, hailing the deal as a “national accomplishment” and declaring those to be released were heroes who would “come back to freedom and struggle against occupation”.