CAIRO: Reports of the imminent release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit have cropped up in both the Egyptian and Israeli press.
The news portal Masrawy ran a report that claimed that Shalit might be handed to Egypt during or right after the upcoming Eid holiday. The report also stated that a Hamas delegation headed by Mahmoud Al-Zahar headed to Cairo through the Rafah crossing Monday.
The Hamas delegation is due to head to Syria after the Cairo visit, where the Hamas leadership is located. It is believed that during Israeli President Shimon Peres’ visit to Cairo Sunday, Israel handed over their final list of the Palestinian prisoners they were willing to exchange for Shalit.
Peres said after meeting with President Hosni Mubarak that progress had been made on this front but that “the details must be kept behind the scenes. Accompanying Peres on his Egypt trip was Israeli National Security Adviser Uzi Arad who met with Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman.
The Hamas journal Al-Risala stated that Shalit’s release had stalled on one Palestinian prisoner Israel was not willing to release.
Shalit was captured in a raid in 2006 and his whereabouts have remained unknown ever since. Recently Hamas released a video of him addressing his family to prove he was still alive.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted Shalit’s father Noam as telling reporters after meeting the Israeli negotiator Hagai Hadas, “We can t say anything at this stage, and there is nothing to add. We would be happy to include you in our joy, if that happens. I am still not reassured.
The Israeli embassy in Cairo did not have a comment regarding the Shalit issue when contacted by Daily News Egypt.
Last June, speculation did arise that Shalit was on the verge of release, with Palestinian and Egyptian reports claiming he would be released “within hours but Hamas and Israeli officials denied it, but claimed significant progress had been made.
In September, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal indicated while on a visit to Cairo to meet Suleiman that both sides were still a long way from a deal regarding Shalit.