CAIRO: Hamas on Thursday denied regional reports that captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit had already been released into the care of Egypt.
Newspaper reports had stated that Shalit was in Egyptian custody, and would remain so until a deal was finalized between Hamas and Israel over the release of Palestinian prisoners.
The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida had reported that Shalit was being held in a secret location in Egypt until negotiations had been concluded, having already been moved there with a Hamas delegation that entered Egypt last month.
Sources in Rafah near the border with the Gaza Strip told Daily News Egypt that Shalit is not currently in Egypt and was not part of the Hamas delegation that came to Egypt last month led by Mahmoud Al-Zahar.
The sources added that the deal had not yet been finalized, and therefore there was no reason for Shalit to be handed over to Egypt. They said that the media leaks regarding Shalit’s release did come from a source at the Rafah crossing but were misconstrued to indicate Shalit was with the Hamas delegation.
Additionally, the pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper reported Wednesday that incarcerated Palestinian leader Marawan El-Barghouti was on the verge of release as part of the Shalit exchange, provided he was immediately sent to exile.
However, Hamas denied all these reports, saying in a statement that Israel was behind the speculation to force their hands in negotiations, adding that the deal was “not over yet and the ball was in “Israel’s court.
Hamas official in Lebanon Osama Hamdan told Al Jazeera that the reports were untrue and he “did not know where it came from.
It is believed that Hamas want 1,000 prisoners in exchange for Shalit, and Egypt and Germany have been mediating a swap exchange between the two.
Reports in Egypt and Israel had surfaced last month that Shalit would be released into the custody of Egypt sometime after the Eid holidays.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted Shalit’s father Noam at the time as telling reporters after meeting 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.
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 both denied it, but claimed significant progress had been made.
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.