Israeli PM's office denies pending prisoner release over captured soldier
The Israeli Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on Thursday denied reports that a deal is in the works between Israel, Egypt and Hamas to gain the release of a kidnapped soldier, being held in Gaza.
"Negotiations on Gilad Shalit are continuous and intensive, but there is no breakthrough in the matter," the PMO said in a statement sent to Xinhua on Thursday.
Meanwhile, both Hamas and Egyptian officials, including Muhammad Bassiouni, Cairo's former ambassador to Israel, also hastily denied that any agreement was in the works, according to Israel Radio.
The PMO release comes in the wake of statements by Muhammad Bassiouni, Cairo's former ambassador to Israel, to a local newspaper that Hamas would release Gilad Shalit, captured from a border post along the Gaza border over five years ago, "within hours," in return for Israel freeing some 1,000 security prisoners.
Israeli Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad on Wednesday traveled to Cairo for talks with officials on a number of issues, the Shalit deal among them, according to sources who spoke with the newspaper.
The issue of the terms of Shalit's release are a polarizing issue in Israel, with supporters saying that agreeing to a deal to gain his freedom would send a message to soldiers that the army would go to any length to support them. Others, however, say the deal would signal weakness towards Hamas and other militant groups, and raise the likelihood of further such quid pro quo kidnappings.