October 12, 2011 1:06:39 am
Israel and Hamas have reached a deal to free a captured Israeli soldier held in the Gaza Strip in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners,officials from both sides said Tuesday,capping five years of painful negotiations that have repeatedly collapsed in fingerpointing and violence.
The deal would bring home Sgt Gilad Schalit,who was captured in a cross-border raid in June 2006 by Palestinian militants who burrowed into Israel and dragged him into Gaza. Little has been known about his fate since then.
Israel’s prime minister,Benjamin Netanyahu,convened an urgent meeting Tuesday night with his Cabinet to approve the deal,said an Israeli official,who spoke on condition pending a formal announcement. Hamas officials and media outlets also confirmed the deal.
The deal would exchange Schalit,25,for about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Israel had earlier balked at Hamas demands because some prisoners are serving sentences for attacks on Israelis.
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A Hamas delegation led by a top leader Mahmoud Zahar arrived in Cairo Monday to ink the deal that would be implemented within days,said a Hamas official.
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